Rosaiah pays for YSR's populism

Rosaiah pays for YSR's populism

 The current dilemma is over the fee reimbursement to engineering colleges for bright students of the SC, ST, backward caste, minority and poor segments of society.

Under the scheme, the government agreed to reimburse the fees of private colleges so that quality education was accessible to promising but poor students. The arrears to colleges have mounted to Rs 3,000 crore and they are pressurising the government to release the funds.

As a last resort measure, the colleges have threatened to close down from May 26 which will mean postponement of exams and in all likelihood, loss of an academic year, affecting the future of thousands of students. Already students have lost several months of study due to the political agitations of bifurcation of the state since last December.
The fate of about 10 lakh engineering students in 660 private engineering colleges hangs in balance. “We are unable to pay salaries to our faculty who have threatened to go on strike from June 1,” said Rajeshwar Reddy, general secretary, Consortium of Engineering College Managements Association (CECMA).

Failed promise
There are as many as six lakh students enjoying the benefit. The government owes Rs 50 lakh-60 lakh to each college where the first batch is admitted. The amount multiplies for colleges with full batches for four years. Colleges say the government committed itself to release Rs 3,000 crore. But only Rs 2,000 crore was allocated in the budget. Now even that amount is not being released.

The threat of indefinite strike by the college managements pushed the government to act. Chief Minister K Rosaiah, after discussing with representatives of the colleges and the ministers concerned, decided to set up a committee of three ministers to find ways of paying the arrears. The meeting decided to release the arrears in installments.
But it also decided to wield the stick. The technical education minister threatened to take action against the colleges if they persisted with the strike. “It is not right for the colleges to demand arrears when the state is going through a financial crisis,” he said, admitting indirectly that the government is in no position to clear up the arrears.
He followed up with advice and a veiled threat. “There are several complaints against most of the engineering colleges, especially the newly established ones, from students and parents that they are not up to the mark. We have been lenient for a long time. If they don’t cooperate with us we would be forced to take action against them,” he said.
The mandate of the committee of ministers is also to scrutinise the quality of teaching and infrastructure in engineering colleges, he pointed out. CECMA dismissed the committee as an attempt of the government to further put off payment of the arrears. “We are in no position to run our colleges with such huge arrears,” said K Krishna Reddy of CECMA.

A similar situation prevails in another pet scheme of YSR under which meritorious students from underprivileged sections were admitted to private junior colleges and trained to appear for national competitive tests for admission into leading colleges. The government reimbursed the fees of Rs 30 crore each year. About 16,000 students were admitted in the last two years.

Last week the government decided to scrap the scheme given the precarious state of its finances. Accordingly, a government order was issued. But before the day ended, another GO was issued undoing the scrapping of the scheme; such was the anger provoked across the board by the discontinuing of the scheme.
In the words of Rosaiah, it is a tight rope walk. “We are not getting enough revenues,” he admitted. But he believes it is only a temporary problem and that the state would find the funds to continue with all its populist programmes.