Physically challenged students who wish to study at the Indian Institutes of Technology need not worry about the education cost as the IIT council has decided to waive off their fees.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the IIT council, headed by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, on Tuesday. "The council suggested that free-ships should be provided for all physically handicapped students," according to Business Standard report.

At the meeting, the council -- the policy-making body -- also brought up the four-year-old proposal to hike IIT fees from Rs 90,000 per year to Rs 2.5 lakh. IITs spend more than Rs 3 lakh on each student every year; however, they are only able to meet one-fourth of the operating expenses with the present fees, according to Live Mint report.

However, the HRD ministry refrained from making immediate decision on fee hike and recommended formation of a panel who will look into the proposal. 

"The matter has been referred to a committee, which will study and decide on the extent of the fee rise required. The suggestion to raise fees to Rs 2.5 lakh a year was given by the Anil Kakodar committee in 2011. It has been four years. There has to be a current assessment of the expenses per student," said an IIT director.

If the fees is hiked in future, students belonging to the weaker sections will be given more opportunities to secure scholarships.

The HRD ministry wants the "committee of directors would examine ways to enhance loans to students, and maintain and enhance scholarships to needy students, especially those from the SC/ST/economically weaker sections," according to its statement.

"The minister insisted that the interests of socially and economically weaker sections should be protected at all costs. She said a fee hike is a sensitive issue and cannot be rushed into. IITs will look into the fee hike issue again," The Times of India quoted Irani as saying.

The council has also accepted the proposal to increase quota for students appearing for JEE (Advanced) test from 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh. The proposal was made by joint admission board (JAB) as 200 seats in IIT remained vacant in 2015 and IITs will take more students through JEE (Advanced) test from 2016.

The council has given a green signal to another proposal, according to which the weaker students will be mentored by the "bright senior students" so as to help them cope with the difficulties they might face in the education system of the IITs. The ministry will fund the plan.

The ministry has also decided to give admission to students from foreign countries, preferably Saarc and African countries. There are 18 functional IITs in India, while the work to set up three more, including one in Dharwad, Karnataka, will begin from next year.