Higher Education Remains a Struggle for Refugees
COIMBATORE: For the children of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees getting access to higher education, especially professional courses, has been a struggle in Tamil Nadu.
The plight of Nandini, who is unable to get admission into a medical college, best illustrates this.
Children of Tamil refugees were first permitted to join arts and science colleges in the 1984 by the then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Government headed by M G Ramachandran, a year after the State witnessed a mass influx of refugees.
However, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in May 1991 that made every Sri Lankan Tamil a suspect disrupted the higher education dreams of the refugee children.
It took another five years for the DMK Government to restore the scheme in 1996. This arrangement lasted only until 2002. In 2003, a five-judge bench of the Madras High Court delivered a verdict on an additional quota created for Indian students, which had an adverse bearing on the admission of the refugee children as well.
Surprising, the then Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, one of the bitterest critic of the Tamil Eelam cause, moved a petition in the High Court seeking to restore the quota for the refugee children and he secured a favourable order. Based on this verdict, refugee students were allowed to be admitted in arts and science colleges.
Thereafter, on an average around 500 Tamil refugee students enrolled for various arts and science courses.
However, entering engineering and medical colleges remained a pipedream for these refugee children despite some of them coming up with flying colours in the Plus Two board examinations.
After numerous representations, in 2010, a year after the Eelam war ended in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Nadu Government paved the way for the entry of refugee children in engineering colleges through the Government Quota.
A Government Order issued on June 29, 2010, allowed the meritorious students “to participate in the single window counselling (for Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions) along with other students according to a merit list prepared on the basis of their (Plus Two) scores under the general category.”
But the Government Order, for some strange reason, was silent on admitting refugee students to the medical colleges, affecting the likes of Nandini.