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Colleges are under scrutiny now


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This article appeared in Hindustan Times, Mumbai Edition on January 4, 2006.


FOR RS 10, you can now probe the multi-crore education business, dominated by Maharashtra’s rich and powerful politicians and so far conducted behind closed doors.

State Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi’s ruling last week against the Chetana Trust — penalising it Rs 25,000 for withholding information on how it spends its funds — means that trusts and deemed universities, which enjoy public grants or are covered by the state’s rules, will have to open their procedures and accounts to public scrutiny.

Educational trusts have been mired in controversies like donations, bribery, non-adherence to norms and running unrecognised courses. The biggest grouse is profiteering, which led the Supreme Court to direct states to appoint fee monitoring committees.

Now, armed with a Rs 10 Right To Information (RTI) application made to your school, college or the trust that runs it, or the state’s regulatory bodies, you can probe almost every aspect of education in the state.

Joshi made it clear to HT: “Trusts will have to be totally transparent in their affairs.” Already, the law is showing its power. Last week’s announcement of a steep fee hike in medical and dental colleges by the Shikshan Shulka Samiti (fee panel) led to the Parents Association of Medical Students(PAMS) to wield the RTI against five medical colleges. They are Nashik’s NKP Salve Medical College, Aurangabad’s MGM Medical College, Pimpri’s DY Patil Dental Col lege, Nashik’s NDMVP Samaj Medical College and Wardha’s Sharad Pawar Dental College. “We’ve asked for income and expenditure statements and the formula adopted for fixing fees,” said Rajesh Jain, a PAMS member.

Kamal Kishore Kadam, chairman of the Association of Managements of Unaided Private Medical and Dental Colleges, said there was “no problem in supplying information”. But, he added: “Applicants will find that facilities will not meet norms since the fee fixed by the Samiti is far below the Rs 6 lakh we require annually per student.”

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RTI Should be extended to all such institutions, which are run even without state funding. It will lead to more trasnpacency and accountability.

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