Fee reimbursement conundrums continue

By:J R Janumpalli

Now that Supreme Court has ruled to complete the admission process by 31 August, both the governments have to do that in coordination who each other. The formation of TSCHE also adds some substance to the melee. It was inevitable, because APCHE cannot be made responsible for conducting the common entrance and overseeing the common admissions for both the states for all the coming 10 years. There is a need for an arrangement for a common agency to both states at least on adhoc basis every year. It is good that both the councils have established some working relationship to carry out the court orders now for this year.

As for fee reimbursement, the Court refused to go in to it at this stage. But, it could be difficult for the students to make decisions for admission if the fee reimbursement is not clarified before the admissions. Since TS has made up its mind to provide financial assistance to only Telangana students, it becomes necessary to identify them. A.P. state wants all the students admitted as locals under 371-D in Telangana area to be provided financial assistance by TS government. But TS does not agree to it. It has formulated the scheme ‘FAST’ to replace earlier scheme and decided 1956 as the base year for consideration of Telangana nativity under the scheme.

In the circumstances, Telangana state’s ongoing exercise of formulating the content and guidelines for its ‘FAST’ scheme becomes very critical. It is to be done very expeditiously, if it wants to implement its revamping of earlier fee reimbursement scheme in this academic year itself in TS. Once the guide lines come out in to open there could be some more litigation on it. How the Court views on them and what will be its influence on the admission process is a matter of conjecture

TS government thinks that completion of inspection and audit of colleges is necessary for admission process to make the fee assistance meaningful and improve the quality of education in the colleges. It has sought some time to complete it. But the Court did not see at it benignly with the view to stop the procrastination in the admissions to colleges. But the intension of TS government is not without merit. For, the present fee reimbursement scheme is perceived by all as full of shortcomings. It is also necessary for A.P. government to revamp it in its own way to improve on it. But, as the things stand between the two governments following nascent bifurcation of the state, it is not happening that way. A.P.wants to continue with the present scheme and take advantage inherent in it for fee reimbursement from TS.

In the present scheme, it is said that there are about 40% of students with present A.P. State credentials getting enrolled in to the Colleges in Telangana which are mostly situated in and around Hydearbad. For TS government it becomes a heavy burden to pay the fee of Andhra origin students in addition to its own students from TS. Moreover it is said that there is also a large scale misutilization of fee reimbursement by many colleges with false admissions just to claim reimbursement. It all adds to the financial burden to TS government as most colleges are in Hyderabad area. Therefore, the TS government has contemplated to bring in the ‘FAST’ scheme to address these problems.

But it has run in to some snags but, the TS government is trying to make it a success. How it is going to make it possible with in the 31st August deadline for admissions, is to be seen. Though the fee assistance is not incumbent on admission, its availability and the quantum, at the time of admissions becomes important for the students to select suitable colleges. Because of the stern view taken by Supreme Court on admissions time, there seems to be some modicum of coordination between TSCHE and APCHE to effect the admissions before august 31st.

As for the discussion on the 1956 cut-off date in the proposed ‘FAST’ scheme, there seems to be problem in regard to these categories of students:
(1) Students whose parents are natives of Telangana even before 1956 but are not in a position to furnish the required documents to prove their nativity.
(2)The students whose parents have come and settled in Telangana after 1956 for good and have made it their home state.
(3) The students whose parents have domicile in other states including A.P. But they were made to study in Telangana and by virtue of their school education in Telangana have taken admission in Telangana colleges as local candidates.
(4) The students whose parents have come in to Telangana after 1956 and have domicile credentials in both the states by virtue of their documents like residential properties, ration cards, voter ids etc. for employment and education want to continue to use the nativity norms in 371-D for the 10 years and even beyond in Telangana.

As 80% of colleges are located in and around Hyderabad the fee burden of the 3 and 4 categories will be substantial. It is likely to increase every year in the coming 10 years. Besides, cleansing the higher education system from the unwarranted maladies in it; promoting authentic educational institutions; assisting genuine students who are in real need of help; improving the quality of higher education; making the graduates eligible for employment in the competitive job market should be the objectives of the governments of both the states. But, it can be seen from the happenings that it is not the case in the present state of affairs. While TS wants to reform the system, A.P. State wants to stick to ‘status quo ante’ for obvious reasons. While TS found that 258 out of 461 colleges not following the AICTE standards, A.P. state has found 28 out of 458 colleges not following the norms. The colleges which are in the red are going to create legal tangles, which they were always doing making the issue further complicated.

Lots of concerns were expressed on the implementation of ‘FAST’ scheme. The prominent being the students of Andhra origin who have become local candidates by virtue of their 4 year study or 7 year residence in Telangana. These students most of them come under the afore mentioned categories of 3 and 4. The 1956 cut-off date will not make all the four categories of students, eligible for fee reimbursement under ‘FAST’. The concerns of students of 1 and 2 categories are genuine. There is need to device a mechanism to look in to the claims of these categories of students. There can be a provision to constitute a kind of higher appellate committee at suitable level to go in to the details of these categories of students and adjudicate to consider for the assistance.

As for the students under the category of 3 and 4 there does not seem to be much scope for questioning the 1956 cut-off date., since local candidate criteria under 371-D does not apply to ‘FAST’.

Since they have their credentials in Andhra region they cannot be considered for fee reimbursement as per the scheme of TS government. After all it is a matter of heavy financial burden on TS government. If the scheme is pronounced legally correct it will not venture to consider these cases. Here arguing natural justice and leaving many wrong doers in the name of not punishing one right candidate all that argument will not hold much water. Seemandhras violating mulki rules and 371-D in the Andhra dominated administration have usurped thousands of jobs and college seats of Telangana people in the last 58 years impacting the lives of 2-3 generations. Nobody bothered about the natural justice there. Though now also Telangana people have to suffer the draconian 10 year common admissions at least TS government can have the right to streamline the higher education in the new state and to help its own students from out of its own budget.

‘FAST’ not only envisages assisting native Telangana students financially but, it also wants to reform the quality of education in the colleges by enforcing the standards and eliminating the colleges who are not following them. In such a scenario simply opting for the ‘status quo ante’ and doling out fee reimbursement to all and sundry colleges to all and sundry students as in the present fee reimbursement scheme will not be called a progressive measure. Simply to save the time for students to usher in admissions without regard to quality of education and the financial drain on the state cannot be said a prudent administration.

It is good that both TS and A.P. governments have embarked on completion of admissions as fast as possible, on the orders of the court. But at the same time there is need for reform and for equitable sharing of fee reimbursement to eligible colleges and eligible students. It is good that TS government is seized of the matter of identifying the colleges eligible and working out on the guidelines for financial assistance to the students under ‘FAST’. It should consider recognizing the concerns of category 1 and 2 students and make suitable proviso in the guidelines to make the scheme more meaningful and acceptable. But, once the guidelines under ‘FAST’ scheme are pronounced, there could be some more legal tangles, in addition to the ineligible colleges indulging in litigation and the fee reimbursement conundrums will continue. Let us hope that the issues will be dealt with expeditiously and something good comes out of the imbroglio.

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