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New challenges for education minister Smriti Irani: Odisha's engineering colleges take another beating- II
The version of the engineering college operative may sound too simplistic and reductionist, but there is not a reason to not to believe it given the fact that during the last two academic years only 26 thousand of the seats out of a total of more than 46 thousand seats have been filled up leaving many colleges empty. Last year more than two dozen Engineering colleges had requested to shut down a few courses where the student intake is abysmally low.

Mushrooming of private engineering colleges in Bhubaneswar has posed problems from the very beginning. The colleges opened up without any hostel facilities that is mandatory for these colleges. The result was that these students took accommodation in the residential areas at exorbitant rent. No doubt the house owners had a hay day by renting out not houses or rooms but beds. The house rent in the capital city went through the roof. And there were several local problems to make life more difficult for the local residents.

While the engineering colleges mushroomed, and it was a boom boom business, many of the private colleges cared a damn for the quality of education. Rather than focusing of education the stress was on ‘managing’ placement. It worked for a few years. But when the messages trickled in that those placed have lost their jobs as they were not really employable, things started falling apart.

The students enrolled were no doubt the pampered lot, but, now the colleges were compelled to pamper them even more. So the engineering colleges here are in a vicious circle and the present crimes by some of the engineering students are only a manifestation of a bigger malice. A tinkering here and another there is not going to help the situation.

But, unfortunately, the action plan that the higher education department has spelled out includes seeking details from the police. Chandrasekhar Kumar, Secretary of Employment and Technical Education department has said that Biju Patnaik University of Technology, the institutions that controls these colleges will be instructed to take action against such erring students. Even the students involved with crime may be debarred from taking examination. At the same time the BPUT also will be entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring whether the students are staying inside the college campus or not.

While these sounds like very tough stand, there are skeptics galore questioning how much of this will be implemented. BPUT even does not have enough staff to manage the academic affairs. How far it can cross check whether the students are residing inside the campus or not. And secondly is it legally tenable that a person who is eligible to appear in an examination be debarred from taking up the examination on the ground that he/she has been booked under certain crime. We know it very well that the conviction may not happen in near future. In that case how come the BPUT can debar the students from appearing in the exams.

On the other hand the City Police has the grand plan of starting an awareness drive in all these institutes, and keeping a vigil on the activities of the students. The private college owners are a worried lot as they do not have hostels in the campus and as the issue is hot now, any check now either by the police or the BPUT will certainly land them in trouble.

Er. Ramesh Sahu says, “All these initiatives are going to yield nothing. It needs a systematic intervention. Government role in these private colleges is only restricted to granting permission. There is no monitoring. Why BPUT should now do a re-check as to which institute has hostel facility and which one does not? This is a joke. As per the AICTE norms they must have the facility. Even if the colleges where there are hostels in the campus, in the absence of a proper monitoring system, a lot many things happen there too which we could not discuss in public. The colleges, in their pursuit of having more students and a good ranking ‘assist’ the students to pass out. The externals, CCTV camera etc. are managed. While there is no pressure of studies, many students bunk the classes. There is no system of attendance pass (that you have to have a minimum attendance to be eligible to appear the exams) system like some of the private universities adopt. (This in no way absolves these private institutions of the mess) Then there is this girl chakkar. Many a times the girls become the point of conflict between students. Again the boys have to have more money to spend on their girl friends. Without making these private institutes accountable, improving the quality of education the situation can not be improved.”

A police personnel also confirms this fairer sex factor. He says that most of the snatching incidents in morning time take place to fund the expenses on the girls. The snatchings in the evening could be attributed to drugs.

Engineering colleges inadvertently engineering crime, is not typical of Odisha alone. Many of the states where there has been boom of private engineering colleges also have the same kind of experience throughout the country. It’s a new challenge for the country’s education system and to control this crime it’s also a big task for the police.

Will the new HRD minister Ms. Smriti Irani work on this aspect to ensure quality education is given to the students and adequate monitoring of the state of affairs in these institutions is done? Or will she leave it as such (or give it a boost) on the mercy of the market forces so that the life of the aspiring engineers as well as the society both are doomed?

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