Nar Bahadur Bhandari Fellowship Scheme launched in honour of the late CM NB Bhandari

Nar Bahadur Bhandari Fellowship Scheme launched in honour of the late CM NB Bhandari
Picture Courtesy: IPR

Many students picture themselves studying at Harvard, Yale, Oxford or SOAS but only a select few realize this dream. Whether by nepotism or economic privilege, a path is paved for children of powerful and wealthy families to attend these prestigious universities without a single obstacle. The desire to study in these prestigious schools then not only becomes about the top of the line facilities and academic courses they have to offer but about having been given the opportunity to experience a life that millions can only imagine.

However, those who come from economically backward groups or families are given opportunities to study in these education institutions by way of scholarships and fellowships. Whether it is state-sponsored or privately sponsored, the promise of scholarships strengthens their resolve. 

In the case of Sikkim, there have always been scholarships for children in school and a few for undergraduates, information which one can be found here ( https://sikkim.gov.in/departments/human-resource-development-department/scholarships-section ). But high school and college are different spaces. One cannot be awarded a small amount if pursuing a medical or engineering course or even as a research grant to MPhil or PhD students, given how difficult their journey has been to reach that point. 

Patrush Lepcha, a scholar, believes that the amount for fellowships should be raised from what it is currently (INR 5000-6000). “From the State government also, there are fellowships for UG, PG, M.Phill. and PhD. But as compared to the Central scheme, the amount of fellowship is very low; where central schemes provide about 30 thousand per month, when it comes to state it is only 6 thousand per month. Sikkim University itself provides Non-NET fellowship of about 8 thousand per month”, explains Patrush. But he observes that since the fellowship grant is not distributed monthly, grantees face a crisis while carrying out research work.

“As far as my experience in research is concerned, without financial aid, carrying out quality research is next to impossible. The Research Scholar fraternity of Sikkim has requested for the up-gradation of fellowship in higher education in the previous govt”. He adds that the process is accessible, but distribution, irregular.

On October 5th, a new fellowship scheme was launched by the Sikkim government in honour of the late Nar Bahadur Bhandari, former Chief Minister of the state. As the late Chief Minister is known for his efforts to include the Nepali language in 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India, his nickname as the architect of modern Sikkim was aptly earned.

From providing free education from elementary to graduate school, establishing nearby schools-- within a radius of 3 to 4 km-- for all residents, providing drinking water to every household in Sikkim, building a network of roads to all major villages in Sikkim, bringing all rural areas onto the electric grid, and the setup of vast healthcare centres, he contributed heavily to Sikkim’s development into a modern state. 

According to IPR’s press release, this new fellowship would allow students to pursue Masters in the top 20 universities of the world, given that they apply and are selected for a course in any of these colleges. The recipients would be known as Nar Bahadur Bhandari Fellows.

After a long wait, Sikkim students will finally be able to realize their dreams of studying abroad at major universities without having to worry about educational and personal expenses as this fellowship aims to fulfil all financial needs of the student. 

But why is this important? 

Previously, grants offered were small and did not encompass all other facilities one needed to study without worries. The NB Bhandari fellowship differs in that aspect. It not only helps with a percentage of the tuition bill but promises to give a full-ride, covering travel and living expenses. 

The previous government’s Chief Minister’s Meritorious Scholarship Scheme which was originally for school students and subsequently extended to undergraduates in Indian universities has helped more than 800 students from remote villages to achieve their dreams of studying in a prestigious educational institution. 

Not only do these schemes help students from a small state meet the finest educators in the country but are pushed to see a more diverse world and meet people from all backgrounds, consequently learning more about the society through people and real-life experiences. It eventually becomes more about learning how to be inclusive and progressive, a thinking individual if you will, rather than only a student that achieved high honours with little to no understanding of the global community at large. 

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