Playing with lives

  • Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 22, 2014 12:56 IST

The recent suicide attempt of an MBBS student of Chintpurni Medical College and Hospital, Pathankot, outside the home of the Punjab medical education minister sent shockwaves through the student community. Harsukhdeep Singh wanted to highlight his plight as well as that of 149 other MBBS batchmates who joined the college in 2011 through the Punjab Medical Entrance Test. Their career plans were jeopardised because of a tussle between the Medical Council of India (MCI) , the college and the state medical education ministry.

Faculty of law students, Delhi University, too, recently had much to worry about when the Council of India (BCI) de-affiliated their department for not allowing inspections for compliance of norms. Those who have passed out this year have to wait for enrolment with BCI and “the more the matter hangs, the longer is the wait for the students for enrolment, which will have an adverse impact on their law career,” says Pankaj Choudhary, second year LLM student and president, PG Law Students’ Union.

Over the last few years students with bright futures ahead of them as doctors, lawyers and architects have had moments of sheer panic when the education regulators such as All India Council For Technical Education, Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture (CoA) etc, have de-affiliated or fined their colleges for non-compliance of norms and standards.

Students stand to be the ultimate losers in such cases while promoters or the heads of institutions get away scot free. Colleges that are fined, in most cases, recover the money from the students in one way or the other. Things get even more serious when a college is de-affiliated as there is no clear cut policy to deal with the students studying they . They are sometimes shifted from one college to another or in some cases left to slug it out in court.

HT Education has previously reported on the case of the Budha College of Architecture, Karnal, which was de-affiliated by the CoA even though the latter was not empowered to do so. Not only that, CoA also ordered that the first, second and third year students be shifted out to other colleges while the fourth year students were left in the lurch. “CoA ordered that we would neither be shifted to another college nor be allowed to continue our studies. We moved court and got an order in our favour,” says a student who was affected by the CoA order.

Academicians, lawyers and education promoters condemn the role of regulatory bodies which, instead of addressing the problems of the students, hamper their careers and force them to take the path of agitation.

Gourab Banerjee, senior Supreme Court lawyer and former additional solicitor of India, says, “In a normal course, a student can go to the consumer court and ask for compensation, but that’s a long drawn procedure and hardly any student does that. So I suggest a provision be made in the act to not only transfer the students from the defaulting college to the other college, but they should be compensated with the money that should be recovered from the college.”

Agreeing with Banerjee, SL Bhoje Gowda, vice chairman, BCI, goes one step further to suggest that the promoter or the head of the institute cheating students should be criminally prosecuted.

“The promoter in case of a private institute and dean/principal in case of a government college are well aware of the violations. Despite that they go ahead with the admissions because they know that they will be protected under the mercy that regulators or court will show to the students. This is very unfortunate. In our next council’s meeting, we will deliberate on this issue,” says Gowda.

Defending regulatory authorities, Biri Singh Sinsinwar, chairman, BCI, says, “Since students are the victims and not the regulator, the former should lodge an FIR and pursue a case.”

As per some educationists regulatory councils have lost their relevance. According to Mukti Mishra, co-founder and president of Centurion University, Bhubaneswar, “In India, there are more than 52 education regulators and most of them are suffering from ‘authority amplification syndrome’. Some of them are fighting among each other for supremacy. So a time has come to merge all these councils into one apex body, which may be called higher education commission having its representation in each state.”

G Viswanathan, founder and chancellor, VIT University, says “There are 20,000 cases related to education involving lakhs of students that are pending in various courts of the country. It’s time the education regulators are replaced with a strong accreditation authority and all colleges should be required to submit themselves to the body. The result of the accreditation should be made public. These regulators have become redundant today.”

Still flouting the rules

Despite UGC’s notification of July 27, 2013, on distance learning, prohibiting universities from offering degree courses outside their states, many institutes are flouting norms
Since 2009, despite a ban on imparting B Tech in distance mode, many institutes are openly flouting the norms
According to an estimate, there are about 20,000 education cases pending before courts in India

What should students do?

Post UGC’s notification dated July 27, 2013, students should not join colleges/institutes offering degree courses of universities outside their states
Students should check the website of various regulatory bodies to find out more about blacklisted colleges/varsities
Students should file RTIs to find out if an institute/college is complying with the norms and standards set out by the respective regulatory authority

Why can’t the guilty be punished?

Students wonder why, despite there being so many many acts and laws, India does not have a specific provision to penalise a defaulting college or university for protecting the rights of the students enrolled there.

Anupam Sunil, alumni, School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal
If a centre of excellence like School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal, created by Ministry of Human Resource Development, is offering degree course without enjoying degree granting status, what else can I say about professional education in this country?

Pankaj Choudhary, President, PG Students’ Union, Law Faculty, DU
If Bar Council of India wants to protect students’ interests, it should not stop the registration of students who have passed out in 2014. It should rather go after those who are responsible for this mess. Students are the most vulnerable in the whole system so they are victimised.

Parikshit Siwach, Faculty of Law, Delhi University
Regulators put the list of fake institutes on their website, but why do they drag their feet when it comes to taking legal action against the guilty? Why there is no legal provision to prosecute institutes which cheat students in the name of granting valid degrees?

Jasmine Singh, Alumni, Chandigarh College of Architecture
The role of the regulatory bodies in education is to maintain high standard and safeguard student’s interest but unfortunately not only the standard of education is deteriorating day-by-day, even students are victimised for no fault of their own. Regulatory bodies have failed on both fronts and so, In my view, have lost thier purpose of existence today.

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