GUWAHATI: Assam government today announced free education for students with family income less than Rs one lakh per annum who are taking admissions in higher secondary, three-year degree and polytechnic diploma courses from this year.
"As far as my knowledge goes, Assam is the first state in India to make higher education free for poor students. There will be absolutely no fee for those students whose parents' income is less than Rs 1 lakh a year," Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a press conference here.
He said this will cover 310 government and provincialised colleges across the state benefitting 50,000-60,000 students. Private institutions are outside the purview of this decision.
The state government will incur an additional expenditure of Rs 70 crore for this in the first year, which will increase in the subsequent years.
"For other disciplines, we are talking to universities, medical colleges and engineering institutes in the same line. As these are autonomous institutions we will need their consent," Sarma said.
Giving details, he said a student would have to furnish documentary evidence of parents' income at the time of admission in the form of salary slips for state and central government staff or employer's certificate for private sector worker or proof of income by circle officer or 'mauzadar'.
"If a student cannot arrange any of the above, then if the principal and the admission committee of the college in their wisdom feel that the income of his/her parents is below or Rs one lakh, then also the concerned principal can give free admission to the student," the minister said.
Asked if any measure would be considered by the government to control the exorbitant fees of private educational institutes, he said, "This government will act soberly. We will not act with regulation or threat against the private sector. We will discuss and act.
"Private institutes are giving employment too. If I bring in any regulation, many institutes may close down and people will be unemployed then. Our motto is to take everyone along with us -- Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas," he said.