Retain pre-degree at college level: Antony

KOCHI, JULY 12. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. A. K. Antony, has asked the State Government to retain pre-degree at the college level for a couple of years more "to save the future of lakhs of students" in the State.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr. Antony wanted the Government to give up "its rigid attitude" and sort out the Plus Two muddle in consultation with the Opposition. He termed the present agitation launched by the UDF against the Plus Two imbroglio as "people's strike" and went beyond political ramifications. "It is a moral fight to preserve the fundamental right of the student community to pursue the education of one's choice", he said.

He said the Government was not yet clear as to who all would be admitted to the Plus Two course, in which all schools, and when can the infrastructure facilities for the Plus Two could be provided. There is confusion regarding appointment of teachers and staff. Would the Government be able to start the Plus Two courses on August 1 as promised to the High Court ? Mr. Antony asked. He said the future of the 608 additional batches where Plus Two was allowed also remained in jeopardy.

The Opposition Leader went into the details about the apprehensions of the student community and the anxious parents. As a practical solution, the Government should at least allow the retention of Plus Two in the colleges for this year. Let all those schools who have been given sanction to start Plus Two course wait and the Government could go ahead with the courses next year after sorting out the problems, he observed.

He justified the agitation, though it had created inconvenience, in the name of Plus Two by the UDF and said it was because of the stir that the irregularities had come out. He said the Government should not think that it can smother the agitation by coercive means. The Government had not bothered to even call the Opposition or the student community for a dialogue on the issue, he said.

He said the much acclaimed `Kerala Model of Development' praised by such stalwarts as Dr. Amartya Sen had taken a beating because of the Tuglak-type reforms in the Educational and Public Health domains. He said the State was paying a high price for diversion of nearly Rs. 50 crores from the Public Health funds for the Pariyaram Medical College. There was not even life saving drugs in the general hospitals and the patients are having a harrowing time, he said.

Mr. Antony said the people in the villages, coastal belts, hilly regions and the industrial sectors were passing through difficult times because of poverty and malnutrition. The Government should take steps to provide free ration and medicines at least during the monsoon to tide over the difficulties.

Reiterating his demand for judicial probe into Plus Two imbroglio, Mr. Antony said the Nayanar Government was one which had appointed the Justice Narendran Commission to probe the policy decision of the UDF to start the Pre-degree Board. The same Government is acting as if everything is hunky dory when it comes to the Plus Two scandal.

He alleged it was to be suspected whether the CPI(M) had also got money for sanctioning the Plus Two. There are allegations that funds were collected for starting a television channel. These would have to be probed, Mr. Antony added.