The fate of a 17-year-old girl, a first-generation learner in an entire settlement of Irulas in Peerkankaranai near Tambaram, to pursue higher education hinges on the Revenue Department issuing a community certificate to her.
She has been seeking this important certificate for the past one month to join a government-aided college near Tambaram. E. Deepa (17) is the first among 20-odd families belonging to the Irular community living in Devanesan Nagar, Peerkankaranai near Tambaram, to have completed schooling.
Her parents, Elumalai, a flower vendor, and Kannagi, a homemaker, have never been to school. Her younger brothers Satish and Vijay are in Class IX. Deepa completed Plus Two from Jaigopal Garodia National Higher Secondary School in East Tambaram in the accountancy group, scoring 773 marks.
She applied for her community certificate three years ago when she completed Class X, but is yet to receive it. Soon after Plus Two results were announced, she applied for B.Com at a couple of government-aided colleges near Tambaram and one of them has assured her a seat under the quota for Scheduled Tribes. However, they insisted on her community certificate.
When she explained the situation to college authorities, they gave her a grace period and recently made it clear that they would not wait beyond Monday.
P. Radhakrishnan, councillor of Peerkankaranai Town Panchayat of Ward No. 2, where Deepa lives, said the applications of several other students and elders seeking community certificates and other documents had been pending with the Revenue Department for some years now.
Mr. Radhakrishnan, who is also Vice-Chairman of the town panchayat (and also area secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist), said it was a matter of great pride for the entire settlement of Irulars to see one among them entering the portals of higher education for the first time, but procedural delays and red-tape came in the way.
He said Tambaram, which was earlier the Taluk Headquarters, was upgraded as a Revenue Divisional Headquarters to improve service delivery to those seeking help, especially the poor and under-privileged. Deepa's relatives said enquiries by the revenue staff were nothing more than harassment as they were asked about their nature of work, the deities they worshipped and other personal family details, including the way in which women of the community tied their “thaali.”
On why the department took such a long time to issue community certificates to the Irulas, officials said they had to conduct thorough enquiries to establish that their claims of being ST were right. Unlike other documents, community certificates could not be handed over to the people in a hurry and that it required enquiry of the applicants after spot visits.
Acknowledging that there had been a delay on their part, they pointed out that many officials of the Revenue Department in Tambaram got transferred at regular intervals, hindering the process. The process of issuing government documents to the Irulars would be expedited after a thorough verification, officials said, adding they would ensure that the lack of the community certificate would not come in the way of Deepa's higher education.