The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pay Bangalore, use Bengal

Bangalore pockets the lakhs, while Calcutta provides the laboratory — for free.

That’s the curious tale unfolding in the biochemistry department of Calcutta University (CU), year after year. Now, the department has drawn the management’s attention to the unusual practice of city students paying hefty capitation fees to study in Bangalore, but returning to home base in the summer and requesting laboratory facilities at CU, without having to pay a paisa.

“Nominated by different colleges, they come down in large batches every year for their summer projects,” said D.J. Chattopadhay, head of CU’s biochemistry department. “But in most cases, they are directed by their institutions to practise laboratory experiments, as well. Such experiments are in no way related to their projects. We often feel compelled to conduct free practical classes for them.”

Among the experiments the students generally ‘request’ CU teachers to conduct are blood-group determination, acid fast-staining, RNA estimation, DNA isolation and estimation, blood-cell count and isolation of bacteria. By reliable estimates, over 30 per cent of total seats in 40-odd colleges — out of a total of 477 colleges affiliated to Bangalore University offering the bio-technology courses in the Karnataka capital — are filled with students from Bengal.

None of the 340 colleges in Bengal is in a position to offer the course, but CU has been providing free lab facilities every summer. Now, however, some teachers in the biochemistry department have expressed resentment over the use of “our laboratories” by “outstation students”.

As Chattopadhyay put it: “We’ve been sympathetic towards the students as they are from Calcutta. But now, it has become a matter of concern. If not addressed properly, it might disrupt post-graduate teaching and research in biochemistry. We must take a realistic stand to ensure that our priorities do not suffer.”

CU plans to “inform all outstation institutions” that applications for summer projects will only be accepted if the projects conform to “the standards and requirements” of the university.

Some students, down from Bangalore for the summer, admitted, on condition of anonymity, that many institutions there did not have the requisite infrastructure to enable them to carry out sophisticated experiments relating to “a highly-specialised subject like bio-technology”. So, their summer projects provided the perfect opportunity to carry out some basic experiments in the laboratories of CU.

Bangalore University vice-chancellor M.S. Thimappah told Metro over the telephone that the infrastructure in colleges affiliated to the varsity has, of late, come under severe strain, as a result of a sharp rise in the number of applications, especially from Bengal.

“But I will have to find out whether the lack of infrastructure has set this trend (of laboratory facilities in CU being used by ‘visiting’ students,” said Thimappah. “Also, I will have to check with the colleges whether they have received any communication from CU in this regard,” he added.

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