Students of the Footwear Design and Development Insitute of India (FDDI) have for quite some time been campaigning against the FDDI-Mewar University collaboration as it does not have the approval of education regulator University Grants Commission. However, when their protests failed to spur the Centre to take action seven FDDI students filed a petition in Supreme Court (SC) alleging that FDDI and Mewar University had collaborated to defraud students of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 batches for various regular degree courses.
Agreeing to examine the allegation of the students, the SC Bench comprising justice AK Sikri and justice R F Nariman has now asked all the responding parties in the petition, ie, ministry of commerce and industry, ministry of human resource development, FDDI, Mewar Univeristy, UGC and AICTE to answer the questions raised by the students within four weeks from the date of order, ie, October 5, 2015.
Students Sandeep Priyadarshi, Harita Singh, Nishi Pandey, Deepankar Sharma, Surbhi Arora, Sanjay Verma and Sachin Saurabh urged the apex court to direct UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education to permit FDDI and Mewar University to grant them regular degrees. They also demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged “high handedness and conspiracy hatched by the respondents Footwear Design and Development Institute, Noida and Mewar University by defrauding and cheating bona fide students from various parts of the country and jeopardising their careers.”
In the petition, which has raised several points referring to reports published in HT Education, the students have said that they had joined FDDI because the institute operated under the deep and pervasive control of the government through the ministry of commerce inasmuch as it was functionally, financially and administratively dominated by the said ministry. The report of May 13, 2015 in “leading newspaper HT Education highlighted that Mewar University, a private university of Rajasthan, has signed MoUs with more than a dozen vocational training institutes to grant degrees on their behalf, which is in violation of the University Grants Commission (Establishment And Maintenance Of Standards In Private Universities) Regulations 2003. The validity of such degrees is questionable and students may face problems in getting Government Jobs and pursuing Higher Education,” the students have said in their petition through senior counsel Nagendra Rai.
Referring to the next HT Education report on May 21, 2015, on the scrapping of the FDDI-Mewar University MoU, the petitioners said “this will put the future of thousands of students who have been pursuing the unauthorised degree programmes at peril.”
Since HT Education’s revelations in May 2015, hundreds of students have been protesting outside their respective campuses at Noida (UP), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Kolkata (West Bengal), Fursatganj (UP), Rohtak (Haryana), Chhindwara (MP), Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and Guna (MP). They have also held a week-long protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Besides these, several groups of students and their parents met minister of state for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman, other senior bureaucrats and office-bearers of FDDI’s governing body but were given no assurance of support.
“The governing body of FDDI insisted that students would get the Mewar degree which would be validated by UGC, but they had no answer when asked how FDDI would do it. Senior bureaucrats from the ministry said they were working on a bill to ensure that FDDI got the ‘institute of national importance’ (INI) status. Some students who met Sitharaman claimed that she had said there were no plans to give INI status to FDDI but reassured them that the ministry would request the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou) to grant valid degrees to FDDI students,” says Sanjay Arora, parent of an FDDI student.
The students approached SC when they had exhausted all their options,.
Cases have also been filed in the high courts of Delhi, Jodhpur, but since SC will now examine the case, this will put an end to the multiple litigation.
The quest for valid degrees
HT Education highlighted the FDDI-Mewar University collaboration in May this year
May 13, 2015: HT Education highlights how the Mewar-FDDI collaboration violates the University Grant Commission (Establishment And Maintenance Of Standards In Private Universities) Regulations 2003
May 21, 2015: HT Education publishes another story in which UGC confirms that the FDDI-Mewar University tie-up is illegal
May 22, 2015: UGC writes to Mewar University asking it to terminate its collaborations with immediate effect. Mewar University then snaps ties with FDDI, inconveniencing FDDI students who took admission in 2012, 2013 and 2014
From June 2015: Students from all eight campuses of FDDI launch protests demanding valid degrees. When FDDI and the commerce ministry fail to come up with any solutions, they file cases in various high courts. One group of students files a petition in Supreme Court demanding validation of degrees and investigation of corruption in FDDI
October 5, 2015: The Supreme Court asks ministry of commerce to respond to the allegations of the FDDI students within four weeks
Students’ e-protest gets no response
Poor quality of training material, no money for factory visits and irregularities in admissions and placements are some charges that students of the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) have levelled against authorities.
A flurry of emails from students to FDDI faculty and administrative members of all the eight campuses have sought answers for various irregularities at the institutes.
“The Footwear Design and Development Institute (ministry of commerce and industry, government of India) was supposed to have been made the Centre of Excellence, but instead of strengthening it with the latest market and industry studies and research and development, you have converted it into a mere money minting ordinary college. Do you think with the current situation, you stand a chance for acquiring institute of national importance (INI) status that you are boasting of and misguiding us,” asked the FDDI Students Union, an association of FDDI students, through an email to the managing director, FDDI and senior officials.
Raw materials used for training are of poor quality and students pay from their own pockets for factory visits.
The email also alleges that fees by the FDDI management was charged ‘irrationally’. “In the years 2000 to 2005, the average placed salary of the student was Rs. 15,000 a month and the fees of the institute was Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 18,000 per semester, whereas in 2015, after 10 years, the average salary of the students is Rs. 10,000 a month and the fees is Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 95,000 per semester. Average salaries, instead of increasing, have gone down.”
Blaming the FDDI management for risking careers of 4,000-odd students through the collaboration with Mewar University, the emails say that all the students and their parents are mentally harassed because of the uncaring attitude of the management.