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Scholarships for the talented

Five years ago Rajive Raturi was a general manager working in Kenya. While there, he met with an accident that left him visually disabled and changed his life. His 22 years' national and international experience in the corporate sector suddenly seemed useless. He returned to India and discovered how much more difficult it is to find work when you are disabled. Undaunted, he refused to give up and eventually found work as a consultant in a call centre. Then seven months ago he joined NCPEDP as programme officer in charge of the Disability Employment Unit.

His work involves building a national employment database of educated and qualified disabled people; although at the moment every working hour is devoted to administering Samsung-sponsored Technical Scholarships. He spoke to Prabhleen Ahuja about his work on this scheme and Samsung specialised training.

Picture of Rajive Raturi

What is the Samsung Scholarship scheme?

As part of the Samsung Digit-All Hope award, made to NCPEDP last October, it was decided to provide a one-year grant for 20 disabled students studying technical courses. This total was later increased so now NCPEDP is able to offer 75 grants of Rs 1,200 a month, or Rs 14,400 over a year.

Why is Samsung involved?

Samsung India Electronics has been a leading provider of high-tech electronic products in the country since December 1995, and so is a relatively new company in India. It has a strong tradition of charitable donations and selected NCPEDP as one of two organisations in India it wanted to fund.

The donation was given as part of Samsung's programme to educate underprivileged youth and bridge the digital divide between the rich and the poor. It has announced grants to 15 organisations from the Asia- Pacific region, including NCPEDP. It awarded a one-year grant in September 2003, which is funding the Disability Employment Unit.

How does this scheme differ from the other scholarships offered by NCPEDP?

This is a one-year bursary, whereas the others generally last for the duration of a course. It is open to all students, from Std XII to PhD students. The main selection criterion is the area of study. There are many technical professions that will benefit from input by disabled people and we have focused on three main specialisations, namely engineering, architecture and the IT streams.

Is the scheme confined to students in Delhi or the major cities?

No. The scheme has been designed very carefully to provide an opportunity for disabled people throughout India. We have contacted 1,550 education institutions, including all the premier institutes of IIT, regional educational colleges of engineering and colleges of architecture, plus NIIT and APTECH. Nearly 90 universities were included because of their specialisation in IT/computer courses. There are also many state engineering colleges and polytechnics on the list.

We took as the starting point the All India Council of Technical Education Institution's list of approved colleges. The main aim was to ensure that in towns with major institutions, at least one institute was involved, which we have achieved. In towns and cities where there was more than one eligible institution, we selected the one that had the most students or which offered the most courses.

Once we had selected the appropriate educational institutions, we sent each a copy of the scheme guidelines along with two publicity posters. One of these was a general poster, while the other was specific to the specialisation offered by the particular institute.

How will the successful students be selected?

There will be a screening panel of three judges, two of which have already been appointed. Salil Chaturvedi is a computer and IT specialist as well as being a well-known disabled businessman. Asha Mehra is an education specialist who runs Swavalamban, an NGO that helps people with learning disabilities. A third panel member is currently being considered but has not been finalised.

The three judges will assess each applicant individually, according to three parameters: merit, means and extent of disability. Each student will receive marks out of 10 for each parameter and the totals will then be averaged out with the grants being given to those who score highest.

If there are any ties, the final decision will take into account factors such as the course studied, standard of the institution, gender and geographic area. For example, a student from a remote area such as Jammu and Kashmir may be considered before someone studying in Delhi.

When will the award winners be notified?

The closing date for applications was originally set for May 31, but this has been extended to June 20. So far we have received in excess of 200 applications and more are arriving at the office every day.

In order to ensure we stick to our deadlines, the screening process has already begun. The final decision will be made by the end of July and the scholars will be announced on August 1. Successful scholars will be invited to attend an Award Ceremony in Delhi on August 22, where they will be able to meet representatives of Samsung and the judging panel, as well as the team from NCPEDP.

What about the applicants who are not successful?

Every applicant will benefit from making an application. Some will be assessed under other scholarship programmes run by NCPEDP and all are entered onto our growing Disability Employment Database. So future employers will be made aware of the skills and expertise that is available among disabled people in their area.

What is the future for these awards?

The Samsung funding is for a limited period of one year. However, NCPEDP is looking to find ways in which the scheme can be continued after that particular round of funding ends.