Hyderabad: Students seeking admissions or already studying in professional colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are caught in a crossfire between the two Telugu-speaking states engaged in a bitter row over reimbursement of fees.
While the Supreme Court's direction early this week to complete admissions in engineering colleges by Aug 31 came as a relief to the students, the lack of clarity over fee reimbursement is still causing anxiety to thousands who passed Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test (EAMCET).
Telangana's decision to scrap the existing fee reimbursement scheme and to extend financial assistance to only those students whose parents were residents of Telangana as on Nov 1, 1956, has put many in a quandary.
The two states are locked in a bitter wrangle over many issues since bifurcation in June, but the tussle over reimbursement of fee is proving serious as it involves the future of thousands of students.
The Congress government in undivided Andhra Pradesh introduced a scheme in 2008 to reimburse the fee of students belonging to economically weaker sections. The annual burden on the state exchequer was about Rs.5,000 crore.
Describing the scheme as a 'big scam', the Telangana government scrapped it. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao said many colleges and students exist on papers to claim the money. He instead introduced a new scheme called Financial Assistance to Students of Telangana (FAST) and made it clear that the government will not pay the fee of the students of other state (read Andhra Pradesh) studying in Hyderabad or other parts of Telangana.
Under FAST, only those students will be treated as locals whose parents were residents of Telangana in 1956 when Telangana was merged with then Andhra State to form Andhra Pradesh.
"We will pay fee of our children, you pay yours", is the argument of KCR, who has also rejected his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N. Chandrababu Naidu's offer to pay 50 percent of the fee.
Hitting back at KCR, Naidu said he can't decide anybody's nativity. "The nativity has to be decided in accordance with the Constitution of India," said Naidu, who claimed that nearly 950,000 students in both the states are suffering.
The row has threatened to delay the admissions as the Telangana government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking time till October to complete the counselling, saying it lacked staff to verify the antecedents of students.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court Aug 4 observed that admissions in engineering colleges are to be completed by Aug 31 as per the original schedule. It also advised both the states not to play politics over the future of students.
The final orders are to be pronounced Aug 11.
The Andhra Pradesh State Council for Higher Education (APSCHE) July 30 issued a notification for admissions and the process began Aug 7. However, the process has not started in Telangana and the government maintained that it lacked adequate staff for verification of students' certificates.
APSCHE argues that it is the competent authority to conduct admissions in both the states in accordance with the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, which says that existing admission process and quotas in both the states will continue for 10 years.
The Telangana government however maintains that it has the full authority to conduct admissions into colleges located in Telangana.
"Let them go ahead with the admissions in their colleges but as far as Telangana is concerned we will start the process after the Supreme Court pronounces its verdict on our petition," said Telangana Education Minister G. Jagadish Reddy.
To pre-empt any move by APSCHE, the Telangana government last week floated its own higher education council to conduct admissions.
The Telangana government also made it clear that the government will not pay the fee arrears of Andhra Pradesh students, who took admissions in Telangana during previous academic years and are currently in various stages of completion of their courses. The arrears are estimated to be Rs.1,800 crore.
The undivided state was due to pay Rs.3,000 crore towards fee arrears to managements of private professional colleges for the academic year 2013-14.
About 395,000 students had appeared in EAMCET held in the united Andhra state in May. Of them, 185,000 students passed in engineering stream and about 86,000 qualified in medicine.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )