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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Engineering seats vacant in Maharashtra, but agriculture graduate courses 99% full

This year, 51,822 students applied for the 15,227 seats available in various undergraduate agriculture courses, data from Maharashtra Council for Agricultural Education and Research (MCAER) shows.

mumbai Updated: Dec 25, 2017 15:28 IST
Musab Qazi
Musab Qazi
Hindustan Times
(Picture for representation)

Even as engineering, management and teacher training institutes in Maharashtra struggle to fill their seats, agricultural colleges have attracted a disproportionately high number of aspirants.

This year, 51,822 students applied for the 15,227 seats available in various undergraduate agriculture courses, data from Maharashtra Council for Agricultural Education and Research (MCAER) shows. That’s more than three students per slot.

The admissions process culminated in 15,065 — more than 99% — seats being filled by aspirants. With 53,549 applicants and 14,819 enrolments (the number of available seats went up by 300), academic year 2016-17 witnessed a similar trend.  In comparison, only 81,736 of the 1,38,226 engineering degree seats in the state were filled this year. Around 5,000 of 34,863 management degree seats remain vacant.

The experts said the demand for these courses is fuelled by employment opportunities available to agricultural professionals, especially in the government sector.

Many find employment with banks, which are increasingly relying on agriculture experts to decide on the beneficiaries of loans.

“Most of the students who take up agriculture hope to work in a white-collared job. The graduates are employed in the banking sector and agriculture department of the state government. Some taking research or entrepreneurship,” said RK Pai, associate dean, College of Fisheries, Shirgaon (Ratnagiri).

The popularity of agricultural courses stands in contrast with the growing farm distress in the state. Despite ample harvest this year, farmers are finding it difficult to recover their investments. Despite the Rs34,000-crore loan waiver announced by the government, this year 2,414 farmers committed suicide until October 31. According to experts, farm distress has little bearing on the demand for agricultural courses.

“Farm distress is caused by the government’s policy in pricing commodities. It has no relation to the farming techniques [taught in the colleges],” said Ashok Dhage, principal, College of Agriculture, Newasa (Ahmednagar district).

Surprisingly, most of the students at agricultural institutes hail from urban and semi-urban areas. Only a small proportion of the students belongs to farming communities in rural areas. Hardly any of these students aspire to join their ancestral farming business, said experts.

“There’s an uncertainty looming over agriculture. Even those students who belong to farming families don’t want to work in farms. In an induction programme conducted in college, only three to four students said that they want to become progressive farmers,” said AS Kadam, a teacher at College of Horticulture, Parbhani.

With job opportunities shrinking in the engineering sector, many students are now said to be eying agriculture. “Other professional courses have limited opportunities, but agriculture has many allied disciplines. After medicine, agriculture has emerged as a career of choice,” said Dhage.

Despite sustained demand, the government is wary of increasing the intake capacity for these courses. “We don’t want the supply of agricultural professionals to exceed job opportunities. Otherwise, it will result in vacant seats in colleges,” said HK Kausadikar, director (education), MCAER.

Even as the UG and PG programmes in agriculture attract students, the diploma courses have fewer takers, resulting in many vacant seats. This year, 13,401 students applied for 14,350 diploma seats, of which only 10,320 were filled. “The students found the three-year polytechnic courses to be difficult. Besides, the private colleges that started the course couldn’t meet the norms,” said Pramod Rasal, associate dean, College of Agriculture, Pune.

First Published: Dec 25, 2017 00:48 IST