Chandigarh, Mar 24 (PTI) The Punjab government is carrying out a comprehensive audit of the post-matric scholarship scheme for students belonging to SCs and OBCs after complaints, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said.

Manpreet while referring to complaints with regard to the grant of post-matric scholarship to students belonging to Scheduled Castes and OBCs, informed the Assembly that the state government is carrying out a comprehensive audit of the scheme.

“The audit involves 2,183 private institutions with 5,44,872 students and 2,126 government institutions with 5,82,139 students. By March 15 this year, we have completed the audit of about 47 per cent beneficiaries and an amount of Rs 329 crore under the said scheme has been pointed out as objectionable.

“However, we do realise that while this exercise goes on the students cannot be allowed to suffer, as such for this year, we have proposed an outlay of Rs 860 crore as against Rs 620 crore last year,” he said while presenting the state budget for 2018-19.

Manpreet said for the empowerment of the Backward Classes, “we have increased the reservation quota for BCs from 5 per cent to 10 per cent for admissions in educational, technical and professional institutions..” In the budget proposals for 2018-19, the government showed its strong commitment to the upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and Minorities.

A sum of Rs 1,235 crore has been earmarked under various welfare schemes for educational, socio-economic and other development programmes during the year 2018-19 for the upliftment of under-privileged sections of the society, he said.

Detailing other outlays in the budget, Manpreet said the state government has decided to enhance the grant to eligible beneficiaries under the Ashirwad scheme to Rs 21,000 from Rs 15,000 from July 1, 2017.

An amount of Rs 3,806 crore under social security sector has been proposed to be allocated in the upcoming fiscal while a total outlay of Rs 3,020 crore has been earmarked for Rural Development and Panchayats, an increase of 88.20 per cent over previous year.

Wi-Fi services will also be provided in all schools in association with private partners. The government has also decided to provide free Wi-Fi services in all the remaining 23 out of 48 government colleges by July this year, he said.

The government has proposed to install RO systems in 1500 schools at an outlay of Rs 9 crore while one existing school in every educational block will be converted into a smart school, the minister said.

All schools in the state will be covered with separate girls’ toilets for which suitable allocation is being provided, he further stated.

To promote use of green energy in schools, the government proposes to install solar power systems in all senior secondary schools through PPP mode.

The government also decided to enhance the total grant to Panjab University, to Rs 42.62 crore in 2018-19 from existing Rs 33 crore.

Under AMRUT scheme, a provision of Rs 500 crore has been proposed while under the Smart Cities Mission, a provision of Rs 500 crore has been kept in 2018-19.

An amount of Rs 124 crore has been provided under different schemes to strengthen the law and order machinery.

The FM’s budget speech also touched upon initial impact which the implementation of GST had, with FM stating “we do hope that by the end of the fiscal year the state will receive all its assured returns. This uncertainty has of course also had an impact on the state’s ability to release funds for development works”.

On crop residue management, Manpreet said the state has designed a practical and achievable action plan for Crop Residue Management and an outlay of Rs 100 crore has been earmarked for this year.

Manpreet said the state government is committed to providing free power to farmers and for this purpose an allocation of Rs 6,256 crore has been made in the budget for 2018-19.

Touching upon sports, he said the government proposes to set up a Sports University at Patiala to give a boost to sporting activities.

On NRIs, he said that they have been assured them that any effort by them shall be supported by the government by contributing 50 per cent for any infrastructure related work that is undertaken in their villages in Punjab by NRIs.

Manpreet informed that the government has decided to launch a new scheme Punjab Naujawan Hunar Vikas Yojana with an objective to provide free skill training to the unemployed youth in the age group of 18-35 years at any of the Skill training centres.

Under the Punjab Shehri Awas Yojana, primarily aimed at providing free housing to houseless SC/BC families having household income less than Rs 5 lakh, the construction of 10,000 EWS dwelling units for eligible families will be taken up in a phased manner.

The state will also develop Chandigarh-Ludhiana-Amritsar and Chandigarh-Hoshiarpur-Gurdaspur as Urban Industrial Corridors.

The state will celebrate 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019 in a grand manner and an outlay of Rs 100 crore has been provided for this in the budget.

To mark the centenary of the supreme sacrifice of those countrymen who laid down their lives at the Jallianwala Bagh during the freedom struggle, Manpreet said an initial outlay of Rs 10 crore is being provided for commemoration of this event.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.