One of the important reasons behind establishing the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology in 1956 was to look after the interests of the students of area and benefit the region's residents.
Fifty-six years on, its founding ethos seems to have been floundered, with the leading varsity, now called Thapar University (TU), abolishing the 50% quota for students from the state for its prestigious undergraduate engineering courses.
HT was first to report how TU had scrapped the reservation for students from Punjab (Thapar varsity abolishes 50% quota for Punjabis; HT, April 10).
Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology was set up as a privately-managed grant in-aid institution under the Patiala Technical Education Trust.
According to the trust deeds signed on April 9, 1956 - between Maharaja Yadavinder Singh, the Raj Pramukh of the erstwhile Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), and legendary industrialist Lala Karam Chand Thapar - "advancing the cause of education, promoting the study of technical education and providing better facilities for citizens of the area" were the driving forces behind opening the college.
To protect the interests of youngsters of the region, a provision of 85% reservation for local students was made at that time.
But that quota was first reduced to 50% from the 2006-07 academic session and now it has been completely scrapped by the university, which became deemed in 1986.
"After abolishing the quota for Punjab students, what purpose is this institute serving for the state? As an MLA of Patiala, it is disappointing to see that the institute whose purpose was to promote engineering in Punjab serve as the enemy of students of the state," said Brahm Mohindra, the Congress legislator from Patiala Rural assembly segment, under which the institution falls.
Mohindra has demanded the immediate intervention of the chief minister in the matter.
The logic of quota
The Punjab government has played a very important role in developing the institution and making it a premier engineering college.
The 250 acres across which the university is spread was given by the erstwhile PEPSU government to the institute trust in 1956.
The state government till 1986 gave 90% grant-in-aid in form of all planned and non-planned expenditures of the institute including salaries of employees and development of other basic infrastructure such as grounds and amenities.
After the college become deemed, the grant-in-aid of the government was increased to 95%. It was
only in 2000 that the government decided to stop all grants to the institute as it was generating sufficient funds on its own.
Even today, though, projects worth more than Rs 10 crore sponsored by the state government and
University Grants Commission (UGC) are running in TU.
"What was the meaning of spending crores of rupees on the institute?" said SP Sharma, a retired TU faculty member. "It is like the government spending money to ensure profits of a privately-managed college."
He alleged that TU was working as a "money-minting machine" and ignoring the interests of the students of Punjab.
From the 2012 academic session, students from Punjab will have to compete with their counterparts in the rest of the country in the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) for TU's 800 engineering seats. Till now, though the state's students took the test, half the seats were kept exclusively for them.
Asked about the decision, TU officials claimed on Monday that it was taken following new guidelines issued by the UGC for deemed universities.
Following HT's report, however, the state government has asked an explanation from university authorities.
The TU trust, university sources said, was earning handsome profits. More than 3,000 students are enrolled in engineering courses (across the four years), and the fee is Rs 98,000 per semester, with a 10% hike every year for four years (eight semesters).
"Leave aside the quota. Presently, it has become very difficult for the common man to get his children admitted to the institution," said Anil Verma, an alumnus of the institute who is currently deputy director, public relations, Punjab State Transmission Corporation Ltd. He said government supervision was "must in the present scenario".
Though many government officials, including the principal secretary, technical education, and finance secretary are members of the TU board of governors, since there is no government funding for the institute now, the state had little interest in monitoring its functioning, TU sources said.
Of the seven trustees, six are industrialists and close relatives of the Thapar family; the seventh, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, is a trustee in his capacity as the ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Patiala.
Sources said he has not attended the last three meetings of the trust. Though HT tried to contact Amarinder to get his views on the quota row, he was unavailable for comment.
There is also a move to change the trust name from the Patiala Technical Education Trust to the
Thapar Educational Trust. Attempts to contact the honorary secretary of the trust, Sanjay Sachdeva, were unsuccessful.
Varsity Employees' body cries foul
Already up in arms against the decision of the board of governors on casual leave, TU employees have slammed the move to abolish quota for Punjab students.
"This is another diktat of the board of governors after scuttling our casual leave," said SP Yadav, secretary of the All Employees Association of the varsity. "We won't tolerate it and will soon start an agitation against the university. We won't allow Punjab's interests to be undermined."
Both the chairman of board of governors of the university Sudhir Mohan Trehan and institute director Abhijit Mukherjee were either unavailable or unwilling to speak on the issue, despite persistent efforts to reach them.