Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

A casual calculation leads to a scam exceeding Rs. 200 crore per annum in Orissa�s High-Tech education sector. But the merit markers are silent!

Only a few weeks ago, we have seen, in the name of merit, how a horrifying protest was raised against proposed reservation of seats for the socially disadvantaged in institutions of technical education.

The medicos, most of whom have been able to get admission into institutes of medical education simply because their parents have amassed enough money to meet the charges of coaching schools, were the ones, who whipped up an agitation that paralyzed the heath care sector of the nation for around a month, till at least the Supreme Court intervened.

Reservation was / is designed to do away with merit, they had argued.

But, we see, they refuse to see how merit is butchered by operators of high-tech education. We will concentrate only on the Orissa scenario as a matter of principle.

Let us start with the admission notice of Orissa Private Engineering College Association (OPECA) advertised in the media on 04 June 06.

It says, �Students who have just acquired a pass mark in 10+2 Science� are eligible to seek admission into B.Tech, MCA and Hotel management courses under its member institutions.

How many such seats are available to the third class students whose merit manifests at the high point of �just�.a pass mark� in 10+2 Science in Orissa?

Out of 12806 seats in Engineering in Orissa, 11916 seats belong to private Engineering Colleges and out of 816 seats in MCA and Hotel management, 664 belong to them. This means out of a total 13622 seats in B.Tech. MCA and HMCT in Orissa, 12580 seats belong to the members of OPECA. According to the notice noted supra, the private colleges �have decided to share 50% of the seats with the Government�. This means, 6290 seats in Colleges clubbed under OPECA are available to students having �acquired just a pass mark in 10+2 Science�.

And, who are these students, who, having �acquired just a pass mark in 10+2 Science, aspire to acquire degrees from high-tech institutions? They are they, whose parents have enough black money to pay.

So whosoever has sources of black money is considered meritorious enough to have a seat in high-tech institutions in Orissa with �just a pass mark� in 10+2 Science.

How much these institutes take to hold these fellows with �just a pass mark� as meritorious enough for high-tech education? Bargain begins from five lakhs of rupees.

In the Admission Rules it is stipulated that no college can demand extra money over and above the approved fees as per Industry Department Resolution No. 10823-I-TT-I-2005 Dated 03 June 2005. The approved fees are: Rs. 30,000/- for Engineering/Arch; Rs.36,000/- for MCA; Rs.40,000/- for Marine Engineering and Rs.45,000/- for MBA/ HMCT/ Pharmacy. But this resolution is a shield to cover up the black deal done clandestinely.

There is no punishment specified under the Rules against any contravention thereof. Rule 19 only says that if any of the instructions provided under the Rules is violated by any College a complain should be lodged to either the Vice-Chancellor of BPUT or Director of TE&T or the Joint Secretary of Industry Department. And the matter ends there. Neither any of these functionaries has any power or authority to take up any proceeding against any manager of any un-aided private college that violates the Rule nor any of them has any power to inspect any institute to spot any violation of the Rules.

The Rules begin with the declaration that �There shall be no State Quota or Management Quota and the Private un-aided Technical/ Professional Institutions are free to fill up their approved intake as per options exercised by them for 2006-2007�.

This is as per the Supreme Court decision in P.A. Inamdar Vrs State of Maharastra case.

So when the un-aided private techno colleges are admittedly free from Government control as per the Case Law made by the Apex Court judgment, entertainment of any complain against them by any of the above officials is bound to push the issue into the labyrinth of Laws. Action against the errant is therefore, far from reality.

But on the matrix of reality, when the Supreme Court has given them a carte blanche to �fill up their approved intakes as per option exercised by them�, why have they decided to share 50% of their seats with the Government? It is they who can give the answer. But in public perception it is a mutual sharing of the booty.

Though the Private un-aided Technical/ Professional Institutions are, according to the Supreme Court, free to fill up their �approved intake� as they like, none of them can afford a confrontation with the Government officials. They know they are safe as long as Government stands with them. Beginning from approval to affiliation, there are umpteen opportunities for official authorities to harass private college operators. So they, notwithstanding whatever the Supreme Court says, cannot say no to what the officials suggest. They know that they have not invested money in private un-aided colleges for social service. This is a business they operate for profit and the rate of fees as fixed by the Government noted supra cannot give them any profit matching their investment. So collection of extra money from students is the only way to fetch a profit. Unless officials cooperate, this cannot be possible. And for officials, allocating seats to aspirant students, who are not meritorious enough to get admission to Government Colleges, is a sure source of un-noticed income. Saswat Pattanayak, presently in USA, while reporting for the Asian age and later for the Hindustan Times, had exposed the scam resorted to by government officials in blocking seats in private colleges for such students. Corruption has crippled the State so much that notwithstanding the in-depth exposure, this evil game has never been looked into by officials with the terseness it warrants. Hence the game relentlessly goes on. The officials� eagerness to see that 50% of private seats rest under their control is a pointer to this. Had they not succumbed to officials� pressure, the private, that too un-aided, college operators would never have �decided to share� 50% of their seats with the Government, when the Supreme court has given them the clearance to freely fill up all the seats of their respective colleges as per their own option.

It is common knowledge that mafia excels in coining words to transmit an intension, which is in fact opposite to his own, so that under a cover of public praise he can proceed towards his prey. Such a cover has been provided for in the guise of 15% reservation for the NRI children. Outwardly it looks very nice. One sees in it our Government�s benevolent concern for our own people staying away from the motherland. But in reality, it is a gift given by government to private colleges. Indians residing in foreign countries normally do not send their children to study in private colleges in a place like Orissa. So the seats reserved for the NRIs remain vacant. These vacant seats are usually, off the records, auctioned away to undeserving aspirants, thereby, generating unnoticeable income of about seventy crore of Rupees.

So it is a massive mechanism of scam that has engulfed technical education in Orissa. And in this scam, beginning from private college operators to BPUT to the Directorate of Technical Education & Training to the Administrative Department to the Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister, all are involved. Otherwise how �just a pass mark in 10+2 science� has been declared as the high-point of merit for entry into engineering and other professional courses?

Grease the palms and get anything done in Orissa.

You know this, I also know.

But I would like to know, how the fellows, who shanghaied our medicals into anarchy a few weeks ago under the claim of protecting �merit� from the shadow of reservation of seats for the socially disadvantaged, react to this open butchering of merit.

Will any of them react?

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