Student groups said that the college has been harassing students to pay fees, even as government reimbursement was delayed.

Engineering student Tejaswini from Ongole who died by suicide in a red kurtaTwitter/N Chandrababu Naidu
news Education Sunday, February 07, 2021 - 18:06

After a 20-year-old engineering student named Tejaswini from Andhra’s Ongole district died by suicide on Friday, students organisations have blamed her college for creating pressure on students to pay fees. Tejaswini, a second year BTech student at QIS College of Engineering and Technology, belonged to Godugupalem locality of Ongole. Student activists and Tejaswini’s fellow students from QIS have alleged that Tejaswini took the step after facing recurring pressure to pay her college fees. 

According to Vinod, SFI (Students’ Federation Of India) Prakasam district secretary, Tejaswini, who belonged to the Kapu Balija community, was one among several students of the college eligible for the government’s fee reimbursement scheme. Until last year, the reimbursement was paid directly by the government to the college. The  YSRCP government in August 2020 launched a new version of the scheme called Jagananna Vidya Deevena. Under this scheme, it was announced that money will be credited to student's mothers' or guardians' accounts in four instalments per year. 

The reimbursement amount is fixed by a government appointed committee, and varies depending on the grading of the institution. “For QIS, the government had fixed an annual fee reimbursement of Rs 36,000 in the last academic year. The management went to court demanding that the college deserves a higher fee. With the case pending in court, the fee reimbursements have been stalled,” says Vinod.

Alleging that the college management has continued to demand the entire fee amount fixed by them in spite of pending reimbursements, students of QIS have been agitating repeatedly over the past two months. Alleging recurring pressure from the management over pending fees, they have been demanding a resolution to the issue without transferring the burden of fees to students, says Vinod. He adds that there have been instances where the college management tried to stop students with pending fees from appearing for their exams. 

Tejaswini died on February 5. Students of the college have alleged that earlier in the day, Tejaswini was stopped from boarding the college bus, citing her pending fee payment. In the protests that have continued since Saturday, students of the college have alleged that Tejaswini felt humiliated when she wasn’t allowed to board the bus. 

A case has been registered on Tejaswini’s death with the Ongole I Town police, under section 174 (police to enquire and report on suicide) of CrPC (The Code Of Criminal Procedure). Head Constable Koteswar Rao, who was initially investigating the case, says that the reason for Tejaswini’s death remains unclear, as no suicide note was found. “The college management has said that she had paid her fees, but it’s unclear whether this was a partial or complete amount,” he says. 

Vinod alleges that the college management has denied that Tejaswini had pending fees to deny responsibility for her death, and that the issue has been affecting several other students who did not anticipate such high fees at the time of joining the college. 

Meanwhile, TDP (Telugu Desam Party) chief and Leader of Opposition Chandrababu Naidu blamed the state government for delay in fee reimbursement, and demanded compensation for Tejaswini’s family. “Ongole BTech student Tejaswini’s death by suicide as she was unable to pay her college fees is heartrending …  Students’ issues must be immediately resolved. Tejaswini’s family must receive support from the government,” Naidu tweeted. 

Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan also issued a statement, acknowledging the ongoing issue between QIS college management and students over fee payment. The statement alleged that Tejaswini’s death was a result of recurring pressure from the college, by taking measures like not allowing students who didn’t pay fees to write exams. Jana Sena demanded that the state government immediately release pending fees to students. 

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