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Mr Raymond Peter, IAS, Principal Secretary to Government, Social Welfare

Interview Date : 15-06-2012

The Government of Andhra Pradesh is providing financial assistance to the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Backward Class, Disabled, and Economically Backward Class students(SC,ST,BC and EBC) studying post matriculation courses on saturation approach to enable them to complete their education. This is boon to all those who sincerely aspire to get quality education, as it provides scholarships directly to the students wi thout (depositing t h e amo u n t s traight into the account r a t h e r tan via c o l l e g e o r management) them having to run around for the  scholarship.
The process began in 2008 where 12000 colleges  registered to get fee reimbursement with a whopping 26 lakh students. Though it was challenging to handle this huge number of students, in 2010 Principal Secretary Social Welfare Dpt Sri Raymond Peter took over and things got streamlined very fast after that. Epass became complex as it also brought in threats, like people who are well above their prime -50 year old man started applying for fee reimbursement. Frauds were rampant with management quotas too etc. Despite all odds Mr Raymond Peter, IAS, Principal Secretary to Government, Social Welfare has embarked on this  ambitious mission to reach out premium education to the deserving, and the s c h eme h a s certainly g a i n e d momentum with his dedicated team and t h e government’s support.

W h i l e C a r e e r G u i d e gathered all possible information to reach it out to its readers, we request  you all to give your feedback on this at  thecareerguide@gmail.com which would certainly boost this e-movement!Principal Secretary Mr Raymond Peter speaks….

It is said that this program is your brain-child?

This idea was our former CM Mr Rajashekar Reddy who wanted to give scholarships to all students on a saturation basis. True, it was done just before the elections as a part of strategy, nevertheless this was an opportunity to help a large number of students pursue the course of their interest. Unfortunately the number of colleges in AP is more than number of students who can possibly pass out. As a result we are unable to get the seats in colleges filled up.
From this arose the problem of colleges stooping down to all kinds of malpractices in admissions and education.
On one side we have colleges who have invested huge money in infrastructure and 3lakh 16 thousand seats in engineering, and on the other hand we have 1 lakh seats lying vacant every year. Soon we will see large number of colleges closing down. Earlier this entire system was manual where nepotism, sycophancy and subjectivity were ruling. I was the Commissioner transport at that time and was asked to take over.
It was the in the year 2010 that I took over this department and within 6 months it was on the floor. Application, verification, sending the bill from the treasury all was done online. This would go straight to the students’ account. The net result was 16000 colleges immediately came down to 10,250 saving the department 1200 crores. So that was the amount that was getting leaked with each student taking up to 3 scholarships. Same student would take the scholarship from Rangareddy, Hyderabad, Nalgonda too. We wanted to do start giving the ids too which would streamline the system further—one student and one course. There was no scope to play a fraud as the database would have all the record of the person with the code/ id given by the department. As a result today we have complete college registration. We asked the students to get their own bank accounts so that they can learn a bit of banking too. We are now doing this in the Universities too with 1 lakh 44 thousand fee structure. These are the advantages.
The best thing is that students are free to focus on academics only. Now the corollary of the entire system is that It brings in the cracks in the education system, we can see a big disconnect between the system and the institution. So we are now steering reforms in the education sector. Last year we had taken up the computerization of the Intermediate Board. Hence we want to proceed to complete admission process becoming online, even in all Universities. Even the exam results.
Linking scholarships to student outcomes is the agenda we are working on now. Nobody in the country expected the Welfare department to steer such reforms because such things are always being done by education department.
Here our dilemma is that the 4000 crores (tax payers money) needs to be utilized well. We will be doing computerized counseling and entry and exit parameters for scholarships. This means if one needs scholarship they must be having a certain marks criteria. We are doing this to give an incentive to the hard-working students. If we they get it free they wouldn’t  value it. We are very serious about not wasting this money on non-serious students.
In fact we plan to track the student’s education right from grade 10 or even a lower level, and we can take it up if we have the Higher Education Board’s support TCG met with Mr Madhusudan, Dy Director Social Welfare Dpt, (SPIU) to find out relevant details about epass —its advantages, loopholes and surpassing all, brilliant future it would bring to many lives and all the accolades it has in store.
To briefly understand this system—
Eligibility criteria—
Students who belong to the categories of SC (including BC-C), ST, BC, EBC and DW (Disabled) having annual parental income of Re One Lakh or below, students whose attendance is below 75% at the end of each quarter.
Students who are all not eligible:
Students belonging to the categories other than SC, ST, BC, EBC and DW(Disabled).
Whose parental income is more than Rupees One lakh. All Students pursuing the part time courses, online courses. Students admitted under Sponsored seats, Management Quota seats.
Students drawing the stipend more than the scholarship amount in aggregate per annum.
Students of BC, EBC and DW students studying the Courses offered by open universities, distant mode, category B seats in MBBS, BDS. EBC students studying Intermediate or equivalent courses Number of colleges which are a part of this—
There are 12,500 colleges in this program. This includes 26 lakh students, one lakh forty four thousand fee combinations, there isn’t uniform fee structure, as it is different for different universities. All welfare depts., treasury banks also come under this.
People to man this— There are 5000 verification officers.

When did this become online?

Earlier this was manual and in 2008 it went online. Here up to the sanction it was online and procedure after that was manual. This was done by a private agency. But this lead to more confusion than clarity. As a result they changed to CEG in 2009. In 2010 Principal Secretary Sri Raymond Peter took over and things got streamlined very fast after that.

What are the kinds of scholarships?

Scholarship was of two kinds, and then one was RTF, Reimbursement of Tuition fee, (exam fee and other fee is excluded) this amount would go straight to the college on the student’s behalf, and the other is MTF which is maintenance amount again which goes into the student’s account. SC and SC students receive 100% amount. BC was included after that from the 2007-08 batches. This was on the merit basis, which means students who do not perform well will not be eligible for this.
In 2008 BC s were included in the saturation mode. EBC was added in 2009. This is unique because BCs being included in the saturation mode was for the first time in any State’s education scholarship’s history.
Uniqueness of this programme—
Caste barrier was totally removed students were picked based on the economic status. In 2008 one lakh parental income group was eligible for all streams other than engineering which had 50000 cut off. For Non professional it was 30,000.
Presently in spite of the course it is one lakh income for ALL COURSES. From 2012 for SC and ST is two lakh. For BC EBC, minorities and disabled it is one lakh. Eligibility is based on the parental income.

Why mandatory age bar?

There were instances of 50 and 60 years old people applying for this. There was a man who passed out in 1969 and applied for LLB course. All the information regarding fee structure in website. http://epass.cgg.gov.in/

Spot admissions and Management quota?

No spot admissions as well as management quota because it so happens that the convener quota would remain vacant and the management would get filled up quickly. As this happened in Paramedical we had to close these two. Distance education is also removed because all
employees will apply for this. Contrary to what people think this project is funded almost completely by the State Government only.

Annual budget for the entire scheme?

4000 crores per year. This includes Group 1- Professional Courses, Group 2—PG Courses, Group 3-degree level- and Group 4— Intermediate courses. In these the maximum number which is 9 lakh are the Intermediate students. In Group 1 there are only 4 lakh students . 2300 crores of the budget which is 65% is consumed by Group 1 students only! Even in this 1700 goes to the Engineering students. We can surely do this which would help us track the student’s performance and record closely.
This is a way to make sure the deserving candidates get benefited.While fees reimbursement shows brilliant possibilities to those who wish to excel, it also has its  disadvantages that come as a package deal, like
are all the students who pass out getting graduated?

—the parental income and caste criteria might not be able to filter out those who are not really ‘serious’ about pursuing education, since its available free?
Looking at these discrepancies which might slow down the functioning of the system TCG feels that, streamlining certain things would help the system to run smoothly.
What seems mandatory is proper dissemination of information regarding education or career which would be highly useful to candidates make the right career choice at right time. Introducing academic bench-marking will certainly help the eligible/deserving candidates. Grading the colleges would also help the students to get into the right colleges, especially the meritorious ones.