Money has taken flight from a prestigious college that gave wings to many dreams and help has failed to land.
Punjab Aircraft Maintenance Engineering College, the only premier government-built institute of its specialty in the north region, has made no admission since 2008. The failure of Punjab state government to give it sufficient aid to purchase a heavy aircraft with jet engine has forced the prestigious institute to lock its gates.
Earlier students trained on light aircraft but in 2008, the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) made it mandatory for every flight engineering college to buy a heavy jet. The price of not fulfilling the condition was losing the DGCA’s approval that was must to admit any new batch.
Built in 1981 under the grant-in aid scheme of the Punjab government, the college got its approval in 1983 and then the DGCA licence for light airframe and piston engine. Later, it became the first institute to run diploma course in aeronautical engineering and aircraft maintenance after it got recognition from the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and affiliation with the Punjab State Board of Technical Education.
The college has given many good engineers to the international, national and state aviation industry. “They now draw handsome salaries yet the college is going through financial crisis,” said retired office superintendent Subhash Saini. “Even the proposals made to the Punjab civil aviation authorities for the allocation of money have not helped,” he added.
Equipment worth crores of rupees, including four helicopters donated by the air force, are unused, gathering dust and turning into junk. The government seems determined not to support the 32-year-old institute. “The institute is not run by the government,” said state civil aviation adviser Abhay Chandra, who’s also the manager of the college. “It is run by an autonomous body.”
The college had approached the DGCA with the proposal to carry on admissions, as the training on the heavy aircraft was done only in the third year but the proposal had not been considered, said Chandra. “The cost of a pressurised aircraft is between Rs 2 and 3 crore and we hope to get it by October and start admissions,” he added.
In six successive annual budgets of the government, the college has failed to even find a mention. When finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa was asked to comment, he said he was unaware of the matter.
“All purchases in the civil aviation department are done on priority. If the college approaches us, we will look into the matter,” he said.