Denied Reservation, Tamil Nadu Rank Holder Works as Cattle Herder
Chandran got first rank in the vocational stream in the Scheduled Tribe category but he still didn't get a seat.
U Chandran was going to be the first of his eleven siblings and the first in all of the Sundaipodu village to become a graduate. However, the 22-year old continues to live in a hut in Bargur in Tamil Nadu’s Erode, in poor living conditions, with no proper roads and network connectivity.
In 2019, Chandran was confident of getting a seat for the Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry course, offered by Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). He had scored 444 marks out of 600, studying Agriculture Practices, a vocational discipline, in a government school in Gobichettipalayam. He belongs to the Cholagar tribal community.
Chandran, however, did not get a seat in TANUVAS, even though he had secured the first rank among all the vocational stream candidates in the Scheduled Tribe category in Tamil Nadu and his position was at 146, as per the college rank list.
Here's a look into his struggle to get an education.
“For Chandran’s family, getting into college was their only hope of a better future. Finally, when he thought he was going to begin a new life and change it all for his family, he was in for a shock,” said Natraj of Sudar NGO, based in Erode, who has been helping Chandran with education.
He was a topper and still was not eligible for a college seat.
Have Quota, but Not a Full Seat
Chandran approached the Madras High Court in 2020, appealing to the universities to allocate at least one seat to tribal students and also urged the court to direct the universities to increase the reservation for vocational students.
As per the guidelines followed by TANUVAS, out of 360 seats, 54 seats (15 percent of total admission strength) are allotted to All India Quota for which selection will be done by Veterinary Council of India, New Delhi. The remaining 306 seats are available to students from Tamil Nadu. Of the 306 seats, one per cent, that is three seats, is reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates, in accordance with the government order from 1984. Only 5 per cent, that is 18 seats, is allocated to students studying vocational courses.
The university clarified that, five per cent of the total admission strength is reserved for Class 12 vocational stream candidates and the remaining 95 percent is reserved for students from the academic stream. All three seats have been given to students from the academic stream.
Similarly, in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), one percent of 45 seats, reserved for vocational students, are allocated to tribal students. That accounts for 0.45 seat which means, a student from ST community will not be able to get a seat.
The petition was dismissed by the court.
Vocational Stream Doesn't Have a Future?
Chandran then approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
If you think only arithmetic, then you will not be able to ever improve the position of tribals. There is an issue of backlog, as in the accumulation of quota from over the years, when a student was not given a seat... So, why can’t this be put together to allot a seat every few years at least?Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Activist
The NHRC had directed the universities to allot a seat within 15 days and there has been no response so far.
"This is just blatant cheating of people from the tribal community. The government should then just inform that the vocational education stream doesn't have a future and that tribals will not get a seat even if they study well and become toppers," said Natraj.
A professor working at the institute told The Quint, on the condition of anonymity, "This is not just Chandran's problem. Every year, tribal students are denied admission because they are from vocational stream and the quota doesn't add up to a whole number. This needs to be fixed so that is it fair. We are denying so many Chandrans a seat, that is going unnoticed."
TANUVAS increased the number of seats to 480 in 2020, which means there are four seats allotted to the Scheduled Tribe community. The Quint reached out to the institute several times but has not received a response yet.
'Problem with the System'
Chandran met with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin in 2020, when he was the leader of the Opposition, and was assured legal help. However, one year later, even after several pleas to courts and ministers, there has not been much progress. The Quint learnt that Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi’s office had also reached out to help.
"Chandran can appeal again to a Division Bench and the court can definitely direct the university to look into this technicality, because this is a problem with the system," said Saravanan an advocate based in Chennai.
PB Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary of State Platform for Common School System – Tamil Nadu (SPCSS-TN) said, "Giving seats to socially and economically backward people is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Shouldn’t the central and state committee for Scheduled Tribes be looking into the difficulties faced by tribal children, analyse the pending litigations in court and look into why these litigations came up in the first place? This is not a problem with the judiciary but the executive."
If the arithmetic is tricky, then they should just allocate one seat exclusively for students from the tribal community who have completed 12th grade in the vocational stream. For so many years, there has been no representation of this community in this course. This is a crime.PB Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary of State Platform for Common School System – Tamil Nadu
He suggested that the institute could have raised this issue with the government and urged for a solution.
We convinced this child to leave the fields and study in a school. And now after he has studied so well, we are pushing him to rear cattle. This is an example of how we have failed as a country to uplift the downtrodden.Natraj, Founder, Sudar NGO
Sunk in Debt
Chandran’s life has not been easy from the beginning. Personal restrains pushed Chandran to child labour at a very young age. He was rescued from child labour at the age of six and studied at a special school run under the National Child Labour Project in Kongadai. He later moved onto mainstream schooling. He lives with his parents and eleven siblings.
His family owns 0.75 cents of land and eight cows with which they have been managing their household expenses.
This was not my plan. Not my plan for my family. We don't have enough to manage even food for the family. Whatever we grow in our land is what we eat. I was very sure of getting into college and getting a good job later. I wanted to become a veterinarian or do agriculture research. Now I am borrowing money to manage daily affairs.U Chandran
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.