The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) left more than 2,500 seats vacant from its all-India quota in the last four years, a reply to an RTI query has revealed, despite there being thousands of eligible candidates. The ICAR, an autonomous body under the Agriculture Ministry for coordinating agriculture education in India, conducts the All India Entrance Examination for Admission (AIEEA) for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) courses in agriculture and allied activities (except veterinary science) every year for government institutes across the country.
The entrance is conducted for 15 per cent of total UG and 25 per cent of total PG seats in these institutes/universities, barring the few chosen ones where the council reserves 100 per cent seats under AIEEA.
As per the data given by the Council in response to the RTI query, a total of 2,558 seats were left vacant for both UG and PG combined in the last four years across these institutes/universities. The latest year for which examination was conducted was 2018.
Separately, a total of 1,095 seats were left vacant for the PG courses and 1,463 for the UG courses during these years.
In addition, the council is yet to refund the millions of rupees it collected in the form of fees from the students for counselling.
In 2018, for 1,954 UG seats across India, a total of 25,246 candidates registered for counselling after paying Rs 2,000 each.
The RTI reply, received on December 10, 2018, revealed that the ICAR is yet to refund Rs 4,52,34000 to the candidates who could not be given admission. The amount to be refunded to PG candidates (9,447) is Rs 1,31,36000.
The information bulletin doesn't specify any deadline by which the amount needs be refunded.
Chandrashekhar Gaur, the RTI applicant, termed the vacancies a glaring indictment of wastefulness on the part of the government.
"There were thousands of eligible candidates who could have taken admission. But the ICAR left the job of filling these seats to the states, which could not care less," Mr Gaur told IANS.
The admission procedure involves online counselling for the selected candidates, who are given the choice of university and course, but not the college. There may be one or several rounds of counselling.
The ICAR in its information bulletin said if the seats are not filled after the rounds of counselling, it will leave the job of filling them up to the universities.
"The ICAR quota seats after the final round of online counselling, if vacant, shall automatically stand released to the agricultural university concerned for filling up at their level and as per the procedure in vogue at the respective university. These seats will no more be called as ICAR seats and will be treated as university seats.
"Once the counselling/admission process is over, filling up of any subsequent vacancies created due to any reason shall not be the responsibility of ICAR. No correspondence in this regard will be entertained, either from the universities or from any candidate," the bulletin said.
Mr Gaur took exception to the clause, questioning its propriety. He said if the government has taken the task of conducting an exam for which thousands aspire every year, it should also take the responsibility of filling the seats.
"There should ideally be a mopping-up round after the counselling. And if any seat still remains vacant, it should be filled through spot counselling. They can't wash their hands off it like this," he said.
The primary reason why many candidates prefer to go for AIEEA instead of taking the state university test is that the former gives them the opportunity to get access to universities in other states.
This much is stated by the ICAR too, which on its website cites a reduction in "inbreeding in agricultural education by encouraging mobility amongst students outside their home state" as one of AIEEA's objectives.
ICAR Director General Trilochan Mohapatra did not reply to e-mailed queries from IANS.
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