Govt orders free education for Dalit students, but this TN college is still charging them fees

Around 120 students have been protesting against Annai College of Polytechnic in Kumbakonam demanding their money back.
Govt orders free education for Dalit students, but this TN college is still charging them fees
Govt orders free education for Dalit students, but this TN college is still charging them fees
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For six months, about 120 Dalit students from Annai College of Polytechnic in Kumbakonam have been protesting against the college management. This after the institute collected college fees from them and have refused to return it despite the district administration ordering them to.

What’s more, these students allege that they have not be allowed to write their semester examinations. “For the last two years, the college has been taking fees from SC/ST students. We started protesting against this six months ago,” explains Prabhakaran, an alumnus of the college, who graduated in electrical engineering last year.

“Under Government Orders 1414 and 92 of the Tamil Nadu government, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students are granted free education,” observes Shreela, an activist. GO 1414 issued in 1989 grants free education for SC/ST students until Degree level, regardless of the income of their parents. In turn, the GO notes that the Directorate of Collegiate Education will reimburse the college for its special fee and examination fee. GO 92 issued in 2014, disburses central government grants for the purpose of tribal welfare.   

Shreela alleges, “The college has been taking money from SC/ST students and from the government. The management has to give back the money they took from the students.”

Anna College of Polytechnic has around 4000 students enrolled, out of which 1200 students belong to the SC/ST community, says Prabhakaran.

When the protests began, the district collector directed the college to return the fees that had been collected. “Many SC/ST student have to get back Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 from the college. When we asked the college for the money they refused to give it back,” he explains.

In an effort to pressure the students to call off their protests, the college has allegedly refused to allow the 120 Dalit students to sit for the semester examinations.

Prabhakaran says, “Because we have been demanding the college return our money, the management has refused to allow us to write the semester examinations. They claim that we have not attended classes in this semester.” He, however, adds the protests will continue until their fees are returned.

Sunder*, a final year civil engineering student, notes that the college has asked some of the students to repeat the academic year. “We are in the final year and they have asked us to repeat the year. Why should we repeat it when we have attended all the classes in this semester?” he asks

The action has now shifted to Chennai, where 20 students have camped out in the city in the hopes to find some resolution to their six-month struggle.

Shreela says that a complaint has been submitted to the Commissioner’s officer in Chennai. “The officials have told us that the college management has been called for a meeting on Saturday. They will have to present documents to an inquiry team from the Directorate of Technical Education and students, a decision will be taken,” she says.

She adds that the 20 students will return to Kumbakonam only once a decision is taken.

Despite efforts by The News Minute to contact the college principal, he was unavailable for comment.  

 *Name changed on request

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