• Quirk NLS

Of False Fiends and Scholarship Repayments

This article has been written by Chirayu Jain (Batch of 2017) in context of the recently released NLSIU Fee Notification 2020-21, which rolled back the NLSIU Scholarship Policy 2015, amongst other changes. Artwork by Anshita Agrawal and Gunjan Jadiya (Batch of 2023).

When the Scholarship Policy 2015 was announced, I thought it was a joke.

That was the year when few others and I were motivated enough to treat all our peers at NLS as data points and to compile them into one study report on diversity and inclusion. It was also the year when I started paying attention to the institution of which I was privileged to be a part. Amongst other findings, I was not surprised to learn that most of those who availed financial assistance to participate in international competitions were the most privileged of the lot. There was no burden upon them to repay the financial assistance they received from the University. However, this was not the case for scholarship awardees under the 2015 Policy. I found this clause in the new Scholarship Policy 2015 insisting on repaying the scholarship so received to be the most agonising human invention ever.

With the audacity unique to a teenager who has solutions to all the problems of the world, I remember interrogating Dr. Shamnad Basheer and Prof. Japhet about this new Scholarship Policy 2015 that I thought was a joke. How dare they ask the need-based applicants, the most disadvantaged fraction of the student body, to repay the scholarship so received, if they started earning Rs. 50,000 a month within three years of graduation, at 10% of their income?

Figure 1: Repayment clause in Scholarship Policy 2015

It has been six years since those interrogations, and three years since I have graduated. And in all these years I have only seen their brainchild, the Policy, enable batchmates and friends to not merely explore all horizons possible with a law degree, but also to dream, to aspire, to falter, to try again, and to win. These are the batchmates and friends who may not have partaken in MUNs in high schools or gone for international trips during summer vacations. For them, the issues of caste, diversity, and inclusion, were not of mere academic interest and joviality, but were lived realities of which they seemed more cognisant than their counterparts. They are the ones who gave the semblance of a public government institution to an otherwise very private law school.

It is a libellous lie to castigate the Scholarship Policy 2015 as some loan policy. It is defamatory to the scholars to suddenly brush them off as loan defaulters. Never had one thought that the innocuous clause meant to augment the already existing scholarship fund would be turned on its head, to defeat the scholarship policy as a whole. There was a reason why the Policy never required the awardees to sign bonds for repayments, but was happy with a mere promise regarding the same. The present NLS administration suffers from myopia. In its continuing tirade regarding financial crunch, it is now raising false pretences to do away with the Scholarship Policy 2015. This Policy not just enables the scholars to aspire for litigation, judicial and government services, and the social sector; it also enables them to dream, to fail and to try again. To replace a benign Scholarship Policy with saddling bank loans is to not merely crush the breadth of ambitions and dreams, but also a sure shot way to increase drop-out rates and to render the student body poor and un-inclusive by far.

The Scholarship Policy 2015 never envisaged immediate or upfront repayments of total amounts awarded. It only envisaged repayment on an ability basis, of small instalments based on the income that one earns. It certainly did not envisage a strict repayment schedule within three years of graduation. The idea behind the Scholarship Policy 2015 was never a short-term one — it was based on a long term vision that the fund created out of endowments and current accruing income of the institution would be additionally enlarged by donations in the future, by the present scholarship awardees. In the news article quoting NLS’ Registrar, the Registrar has seemingly failed to mention the number of scholars who are still enrolled as students at NLS, and who thus cannot repay the principal amount, and has also deliberately overlooked mentioning the insincerity in the efforts made by the NLS administration to request the scholars to give back to the fund. Only in the last month the university seems to have made hurried calls to the alumni, with the untrained callers either demanding immediate upfront repayment of entire scholarship awarded or providing no details regarding mechanism for repayments whatsoever. It is also most condemnable that the administration is now trying to unilaterally alter the terms under which the scholarships were extended, by threatening the graduated awardees with a sword of Damocles hanging over the future of current student awardees.

It was the beauty of the 2015 Policy that it imposed the obligation upon the administration to ensure that “no one who secures admission to NLSIU shall discontinue his/her studies on account of financial constraints.” It is the myopic hurry on part of the present NLS administration and of the Governing Body of Alumni Association which fails to enable them to see the value this 2015 Policy serves in an institution which otherwise charges Rs. 2.2 lakhs per annum for five years.

The Scholarship Policy 2015 is no joke. The joke is on those who fail to appreciate the Scholarship Policy 2015 for what it really is.

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