PUDUCHERRY: The AINRC government, led by chief minister N Rangasamy, had come to power last year essentially riding the crest of Perunthalaivar Kamarajar financial assistance scheme for higher education (PKFASHE).
He had promised the benefits of the scheme to all CENTAC-sponsored students of medical and engineering (as introduced by him during his earlier tenure).
However, the scheme is yet to be implemented despite the budgetary announcement, due to heavy financial implications. As a result, even the existing scheme PKFASHE, restricting the beneficiaries to around 250 MBBS and 700 engineering students, has eluded the aspirants in 2011-2012.
In the scheme, all CENTAC- sponsored students pursuing MBBS courses in self-financing institutes, would get a fee reimbursement of `2.25 lakh per annum. Engineering students would get full tuition fee reimbursement under the PKFASHE scheme for higher education. This was announced by Rangasamy during the budget session for the 2011- 2012 fiscal.
Unfortunately, he has not been able to keep the electoral promise as well as the budgetary announcement due to high financial implications. At present there are 14 self- financing engineering colleges and seven self- financing medical colleges. The average number of students sponsored by CENTAC for engineering is around 1800 students, while for medical it is 264.
If the government has to implement the scheme as per the new policy it would involve an annual expenditure of around `80 crore which the government can ill-afford considering the financial constraints. Hence the government has not modified the existing government order.On the other hand, it has not bothered to implement the scheme in existence, due to the fact that this restricted scheme was drawn up by the Congress government led by V Vaithilingam. As Rangasamy had given the students hopes of extending it to all, he cannot retract it.
As a result, the scheme has eluded all students in the academic year 2011-2012 after Rangasamy government came to power. The government only managed to pay the arrears of the past three years (2008-2009, 2009-2010 , 2010-2011) as per the restricted scheme, through the `16 crore released by the government. However `5 crores is still required to clear the arrears.
Despite this the students who got admitted in 2011-2012 continue to pin their hopes on the government as they step into second year of their study.
However, the students of second, third and fourth year, who could not get the benefits under the existing scheme and also expected to get the benefits under the new policy have been left high and dry. Their hopes were dashed when the government passed an order, stating that the students admitted prior to 2011-2012 would not be eligible for benefits under the new scheme as per the Chief minister’s announcement.
If the government decides to implement it in 2012-2013, it would have to clear the previous (2011-2012) year’s pending arrears of `37 crore (that includes `11 to `12 crore for renewal, `5 crore for pending application and `20 crore for fresh entrants) as well as current year’s implication of around `45 crore.
Even this financial implication could go up if the government grants an NOC for new engineering or medical colleges and more students are sponsored through CENTAC.
The basic question arises whether it is prudent policy on the part of the government. Being a welfare scheme, it is not restricted to meritorious students from targeted section of society who can ill afford to pay fees.
With no income limit, even the children of those who can afford the fee are eligible for the benefits, which the students got before the restriction were imposed by Vaithilingam government.
With two government medical colleges, under the territorial administration and JIPMER, and two government engineering colleges, does the government need to extend the scheme for students from wealthy families studying in self- financing college?
Moreover, with scarcity of funds even to pay salaries and implementation of other welfare schemes and developmental projects,does the government still need to strive to extend the scheme to all students, to fulfil its political commitment?