The Parkash Singh Badal government cleared the decks on Monday to set up yet another private university even as the legislators of the ruling BJP and the Congress questioned the move and slammed the government for not putting in place effective mechanism to monitor the functioning of private universities across the state.
After a lengthy debate, the Regional Institute of Management and Technology (RIMT) University Bill-2015 was passed by the Vidhan Sabha with a voice vote as the SAD-BJP has a simple majority in the House of 117 members. The RIMT University is the 14th in the private sector and will be run by the Om Parkash Bansal Educational and Social Welfare Trust at Mandi Gobindgarh in Fatehgarh Sahib district along the Grand Trunk Road. The Bill states that the university will run professional, medical, technical, general education, language and literature courses. While tabling the bill, higher education minister Surjit Singh Rakhra defended setting up of the university, whereas BJP legislators Manoranjan Kalia, Som Parkash and Navjot Kaur Sidhu pointed out that in the absence of a regulatory commission the private universities were flouting the norms.
The contentions of the BJP MLAs were not only endorsed by the Congress, but the opposition also questioned the motives of the government behind bringing bills in every session to set up private universities.
At this, rural development minister Sikander Singh Maluka tried to blunt the Congress’ offensive reminding the opposition party that the trend of setting up private universities was started by the Congress when it was in power (2002-2007). But the Congress MLAs hit back saying, “If we made a mistake, you will also follow the same path.”
‘What’s the hurry’
Earlier, Congress MLA Ashwani Sekhri initiated the discussion on the bill, asking why the government was in a hurry to set up another private university, while Balbir Singh Sidhu (Congress) said “money and approach” were needed to get admission into such universities which “are producing graduates and engineers who lack employability”. He said, “The government control over private universities is imperative. We must have a strong mechanism to control these universities.”
The Congress’ assault received a strong backing when former minister Kalia deftly hit out at the “nonchalant attitude” of the government for not setting up a regulator commission despite having promised in the assembly. “It is a serious matter. The focus should be on quality and not quantity. The Himachal Pradesh government has set up a regulatory commission to check functioning of the private universities. We must have some effective checks…the students are being cheated by some private universities,” Kalia, the former cabinet minister, said, demanding an assurance from the government to set up a regulatory commission.
He said, “We have left it to the private universities to run their affairs even as they are admitting students against the rules. There is no check. We must monitor the private universities to ascertain that the rules and guidelines of the government are not violated.” Another SAD MLA said the private universities should not become a “commercial venture”.
Govt left red-faced
The government was left redfaced when BJP MLA Som Parkash pointed out glaring mistakes in the bill translated into Punjabi from English.
“We talk about the numbers instead of the standards in education…Our students cannot speak two sentences in English. In every session one or two bills are introduced to set up private university. Have we done enough to ensure quality education by such universities,” the BJP MLA said.
Endorsing the BJP MLA’s stand, Congress MLA Tarlochan Singh Soondh asked, “What is the hurry to push this bill? Why are we lowering educational standards by setting up such commercial institutes?”
And the final punch came from Kuljit Singh Nagra of the Congress, who said: “Passing this bill will amount to deceiving the youth. People will be looted.”