It is almost three weeks since counselling for engineering courses began in Anna University, but less than 5,000 students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been allotted seats so far.
The trend in the past five years shows a gradual fall in the number of SC/ST candidates being admitted through single window counselling. At the same time, the university has also registered a steep increase in the number of seats falling vacant under these two categories at the end of counselling.
Lack of interest in taking up engineering comes as a surprise especially since the government has committed itself to providing free education to SC/ST students. The State government has also issued an order (G.O. 92) enabling students to seek free education in professional courses – under management quota in self-financing institutions.
Vacancies notwithstanding, those working with SC, ST communities, however, say that the G.O. has enabled more students to take up seats under the management quota. Earlier, SC students were being paid only tuition fees under government quota through single window admissions. The G.O. 92 changed that.
R. Christudas Gandhi, founder of Ambedkar Kalvi Centenary Movement, says it was incorrect to take the figures provided by Anna University at face value. “Ever since the government offered to reimburse tuition fee for a SC student admitted under management quota, the colleges have volunteered to provide free hostel accommodation,” he says.
“This year 200 Dalit students who scored over 1,000 marks in Plus-Two took the counselling route and have been admitted to colleges so far. But they are now struggling to pay the tuition fee. Often the candidates have only half the information and end up in trouble,” he points out. Despite this, according to him the overall SC admission in engineering colleges has doubled since 2013-14, when only 16,000 candidates were admitted. “This should go up to 60,000 this year but the government is not popularising its scholarship scheme,” Mr. Gandhi says.
Educational consultant Moorthy Selvakumaran says the focus on community-based reservation prevents students with higher marks belonging to the open category from aspiring for admission through general counselling.