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New challenges for education minister Smriti Irani: Odisha's Engineering colleges take another beating- I
With the arrest of four engineering students with fire arms in their possession, engineering colleges in Odisha, already neck deep in crisis, are in for another shocker. Police is in a tizzy. The higher education department is grappling with ideas to rein in the erring students. But all these initiatives are simply knee jerk reactions and will do precious little to address the rot that is responsible for this system.
Uncontrolled privatization of education, lack of quality education and near absence of a credible monitoring system are the underlying causes and engineering students venturing out into the crime world is simply the symptom. This is not only true for Odisha only, it equally applies to other states in the country.

Some of the engineering college students indulging in different crimes is nothing new for Bhubaneswar and some other parts of the state. But the city police either had not taken them seriously or simply looked the other way. But this time the engineering students have been nabbed with fire arms and they are suspected to be involved in fire arms smuggling.

The police can no longer afford to ignore this and has to come out with systematic interventions to arrest this. Even the Department of Higher Education also has jumped in to action (albeit too late) and that has been the cause of worry for the engineering college operators.

On 5th June, Rs. 11 lakh was looted at a city hospital by the armed criminals and the police was on a manhunt. During this operation the Special Squad, Quick Action Team and Tomando police intercepted five youths on two motor cycles. Three fire arms along with live ammunitions were recovered from them. Out of the five nabbed youths, four belonged to different engineering colleges in Bhubaneswar and the fifth one to a private college in final year B. Com.

During last three months the police has seized more than 50 fire arms and more than a hundred ammunitions. Police has been able to arrest the members of more than 15 gangs involved with arms smuggling. The Police Commissioner has said that in each of these gangs there are two/three engineering students. The engineering students get involved with the arms smuggling for the lure of money.

With the mushrooming of the engineering colleges, students from neighboring states of Bihar and Jharkhand join these colleges. Some of them get the revolvers dirt cheap from Munger and Jharkhand for a paltry amount of Rs 2000 to Rs 3000. And this sells for somewhere between Rs. 35-40, 000 in Bhubaneswar. So it is good money for the students who want to have a luxurious life.

Some for the students have made it a regular business while a few others possess guns just to show off or commit petty crimes. While the police are well aware of the modus operandi and the implications of smuggling of arms while the crime graph is shooting up, it is doing next to nothing to control it. In recent past more than 20 students have been nabbed with the charges of arms smuggling, that should be enough to get the alarm bell ringing. But next to nothing has been done on this front.

First of all these engineering students do not live within the campus as many of the colleges do not have hostels as per the AICTE norms. The students of these colleges barring a few colleges having hostel facilities are scattered all across the residential areas of the capital city, making it really difficult for the police to mount any kind of vigil. Even the concerned colleges also fail to have an eye on the students who could be involved with crime.

With a shortage of students to fill the seats in the engineering colleges in Odisha, the college authorities see a lot of advantages in turning a blind eye to the straying students. An insider, who has been involved with the operations of several engineering and management colleges in Bhubaneswar confides with the condition of anonymity, “With the shortage of students for the colleges, one has to do a lot of dirty jobs to keep the colleges going. First of all you collect the students, and assure their parents who no doubt invest a hefty amount for the engineering education of their ward that their ward will become an engineer per excellence. While parting with the money, the parents want an assurance from the college operators that their ward will get a placement. What all things the college authorities have to ensure the placement of the students who are hardly employable is a different story. But the crux of the matter is that these students acquired the hard way are a pampered lot. Very often they get involved with accidents, fight with other groups, being caught in inebriated conditions and even crimes like chain snatching etc. It is the pious duty of the college authorities to bail them out from such situations. Colleges even have specific persons to do this beat and in some cases have to keep the police on payroll. One can say that in a way the engineering college operators in these engineering colleges provide hand holding support to such way ward students to graduate into higher levels of crime.” 

But, he was quick to add that this malady was not specific to Odisha only, in other states too this is true to lesser or larger extent.

To be continued...

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