Overcoming all odds, Binesh B, became the first person in the tribal hamlet of Kanghangad in Kasaragod district, Kerala to gain admission in a foreign university. But despite two opportunities to study abroad, Binesh had to miss out due to the alleged complacency of Kerala’s bureaucrats.
Binesh secured admission at the University of Sussex in United Kingdom for a Master’s degree in Anthropology in 2014. Eligible for a scholarship, he met the then Tribal Affairs Minister PK Jayalakshmi, who went on to allot a sum of Rs 27 lakh, impressed by his academic excellence.
But the 23-year-old’s happiness was short-lived. Faced with Kerala’s slow bureaucracy, his files did not move. Binesh claims that after enquiring, he found that his file had been closed without any reason.
“They all had this feeling, how can an ST category student go abroad and study. I spent almost four months running behind officials to get my papers cleared. Finally, they sanctioned the papers in November 2015, stating that I will be joining the course in September 2015. Which was a big technical mistake,” he says.
Following the goof-up, Binesh was unable to join the course in September 2015 and decided to defer his joining to January 2016. But despite the official clearance for his scholarship, the funds were not allotted.
A feeling of hopelessness set in. Binesh notes, “I was fully depressed, I had lost hope. Born and brought up in a tribal family. in extremely poor conditions, at one point of time I thought I shouldn’t have dreamt of all this.”
And while a few friends supported him, the young man observes, “I realised that in a highly caste oriented society, many will be there to discourage a person like me, but I should fight.”
He was not ready to give up his academic dreams just yet. Having secured admission in London School of Economic for the next academic year, Binesh decided to approach the central government for a scholarship.
“I got an overseas scholarship of Rs 45 lakhs sponsored by the central government. But it was a repeat of the same problem. I would get the scholarship amount only after I begin my studies while I would have to bear flight fares, visa charges, initial expenses,” he laments.
When the new LDF government was sworn in, Binesh met present SC/ST Development Minister AK Balan and sought his help. The new minister ordered that he immediately be sanctioned Rs 1.5 lakh for his initial expenses.
“In my file he wrote ‘urgent’ but l still did not get the funds, “Binesh explains helplessly.
The student says the contempt he faced at the Kerala Secretariat was not the first such instance of its kind.
“When I was in school studying in class 3 or 4, I was standing in the corner of our playground during games period. One of my teachers approached me and asked which house (groups categorised for sports competitions) I belong to. I said blue. He laughed at me and said I belong to ‘black’ house. I did not understand the meaning at that time. Now I realize I am still in the same position,” he says.
Despite the insults and the discrimination that Binesh had to contend with growing up, he says he is still determined to pursue his dream. “I may not be able to go this September as well. But I hope I can go at least by January,” he hopes.
Photos : Sreekesh Raveendran Nair