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Hardlook: Batch of 2019

Aranya Shankar
Students taking admission under EWS category are, in a sense, part of history now.

Eleven years after 7,000 seats were added to Delhi University as part of an expansion to accommodate OBC students, 6,700 more seats have been added under the HRD ministry s plan to implement 10% quota for the economically weaker sections (EWS) of the general category in central educational institutions.

Students taking admission under this category are, in a sense, part of history now. The Indian Express spoke to seven of them about their journey to one of India s most sought after universities.

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CHIRAG SHARMA (18)

Currently enrolled in B.Sc (Hons) Mathematics at Ram Lal Anand College, Sharma cleared the EWS cut-off for the course in the first list with a best of four score of 93.5%.

He s staying at a paying guest (PG) accommodation in Govindpuri, where he pays Rs 6,000 a month for a room that he shares with two other DU students also studying in the South Campus college. It is expensive, but it includes everything from meals to laundry, so I suppose it s okay, said Sharma.

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His parents live in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh, which is where he was till a month ago. My father is a retired government school teacher and my mother is a housewife. The only source of income at home right now is my father s pension, which comes to around Rs 2.75 lakh per annum, said Sharma.

Even though Sharma got through the EWS quota in DU, he feels the implementation has been less beneficial as compared to other universities and institutes.

We were expecting cut-off for EWS students would be significantly lower but there was hardly any difference between the general category cut-off and EWS cut-off. This is not true of other universities. We know, for example, that in Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut, there was a significant difference between cut-offs. But I suppose in DU, because there are so many students vying for seats, the difference was minor, said Sharma.

He also feels it isn t fair for those from the EWS category to be paying the same fee as those from the general category: There should be some concession.

TELAPATI MOHAN KRISHNA (18)

With dreams of becoming an IAS officer, Krishna has taken admission at Sri Aurobindo College s Political Science (Hons) course in the fourth cut-off.

Hailing from Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, Krishna s father is a farmer and his mother a homemaker. We have about 4-5 acres of land which we till. We earn around Rs 2 lakh a year and that s our only income. We usually grow rice and mustard, said Krishna.

While he originally wanted to study law, he could not get the requisite score in CLAT and shifted focus to the civil services. While being enrolled in Political Science, I m also preparing for UPSC. That is now my dream, said Krishna, who stays at a PG accommodation not far from college. He pays Rs 6,500 per month for a room to himself.

I think it s important we get quota in education and jobs. Fee not being reduced is not a big problem as we only pay around Rs 7,000 per year. One thing that we should get, though, is a hostel, he said.

BRIJENDRA UPADHYAY (18)

The first-year BA (Hons) Hindi student at Hansraj College spends over an hour reaching his college every day from Noida, where he lives with his elder brother.
From Uttar Pradesh s Akbarpur, Upadhyay will soon shift closer to college to save time and money.

In January this year, he lost his father, a former government school teacher, to a heart attack. My mother is a housewife so we have no fixed source of income right now. I have four maternal uncles in Akbarpur; she stays with them. They are also providing our family with some money, said Upadhyay, who got admission under the EWS category with a best of four percentage of 86.7%.

Having suffered a personal setback, he said the EWS quota helped him. I was able to get through DU because of this quota, and I know other friends too who benefited. If not for EWS, I would have been studying in BHU or HSG University, Sagar. But it has only helped as an entry point. Beyond that, in terms of fee, we are paying the same as others, he said.

SHUBHAM KUMAR (17)

Originally from Saharsa in Bihar, Kumar is currently enrolled in History (Hons) at Ram Lal Anand College, and stays in a flat alone. I stay in Samalka village near IGI Airport, from where I travel to college daily. My rent is around Rs 4,500 per month, including electricity and water charges, he said.

Kumar belongs to a family of farmers. My father has land but he doesn t cultivate it himself. He has given it out for rent, and gets some share from the yield. I am not sure how much the land is, because my cousins and I have intentionally been kept away and are encouraged to focus on academics, he said.

Although he made it to the university through the EWS cut-off, he feels it was more of a hassle than help. It has definitely benefited me so maybe I shouldn t complain, but I feel a minor difference in cut-offs between EWS and general categories hardly makes a difference. Plus the running around I had to do to get the EWS certificate was quite a hassle. I had to travel to Bihar thrice in order to complete the process, said Kumar, who wants to work with the UNHRC in the future.

LAVANYA GUPTA (18)

A resident of Delhi s Palam area, her father works in a private firm while her mother is a housewife. Their annual family income is roughly around Rs 7 lakh per annum.

I commute every day from home to college, but considering we are paying just Rs 16,500 per year as fee, it s not a big expense. Some students may complain about the fee, but in our country, I don t think students need to take a loan to do their graduation; so I think it s very affordable, said the BA Programme student from Daulat Ram College.

She said she personally knew several people who benefited from the EWS quota. Not only me, many of my friends would have missed out on a good college by just 0.5 % if not for the EWS cut-off. It has really helped people and I think it should be applauded instead of being seen as a political move, she said.

HIMANSHI CHHABRA (18)

Chhabra s father died more than two years ago, leaving her family without any source of income. The machine parts shop that he ran in Gurgaon, where the family also stays, is now being looked after and run by her cousin, who gives the family of three Chhabra, her mother and her younger sister whatever money comes from it.

We get about Rs 80,000 per year as our income. That s about it. Somehow, we manage, said Chhabra, who is enrolled in B.Voc in Marketing & Management Insurance at the College of Vocational Studies.

Since she got admission in the seventh cut-off list, the rigmarole of going to college will start on Tuesday. Taking the Metro from Gurgaon to Delhi every day will be a task, but she said will manage.

This EWS quota is good but it also has limitations. I feel when other reserved categories get so much relaxation in their cut-offs, we should too. There was hardly any difference between the EWS and general cut-offs, she said, adding that she has plans to pursue an MBA in the future.

RITIK JAIN (18)

Enrolled in B.Com Programme at Sri Aurobindo College, Jain intends to use the Metro to travel from his home in Sadar Bazar to college once he begins attending classes Tuesday. He got admitted under the EWS category in the seventh cut-off list, even though he wanted to do B.Com (Hons).

I had initially got admission in B.Com (Hons) in a college under IP University but I pulled out when they increased their fee to Rs 1.05 lakh per year. Now, I ve taken admission in Sri Aurobindo College. Initially, I will take the Metro, but soon I hope to get a bus pass made so that the excess cost can be reduced, he said.

With the number of EWS students set to increase by another 10,050 next year, the university will have to see how it deals with the issue of hostel seats and fee.

Nearly half of the varsity s approximately 1.8 lakh strong student body comes from outside Delhi, and only a fraction are accommodated in hostels provided by the colleges or university. The rest depend on PG accommodation or rent apartments close to colleges, which often costs more than the college fee.

While Registrar Tarun Kumar Das did not respond to calls and texts, a DU official said, The EWS implementation has come from the Centre. So if the UGC tells us that there should be a reduction in their fee, we will do it. But what is already happening is that many colleges are offering scholarship according to means basis, after students have taken admission.

The Delhi L-G has asked colleges that if they want to construct girls hostels, they can ask for it if they have enough residential space; so many colleges have shown interest. It should work out, the official said, adding that while there was no separate EWS Cell to cater to their grievances, the Grievance Redressal Cell of the university as well as colleges were catering to students needs.