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Campus bar on bunking for a fee

The college years might never be the same again, with a government-led move to throw the attendance book at students not too keen to stay in class. Under pressure from the government, the three universities in the city — Calcutta, Jadavpur and Rabindra Bharati — will have to ask their offices and college-affiliates not to allow errant students slipping below the 75 per cent attendance mark to escape for a fee.

“It will be a changed attendance policy,” promised Pabitra Sarkar, vice-chairman of the state Higher Secondary Council. “We can no longer afford to be seen as taking a lenient attitude towards the problem of class-bunking. They (the University Grants Commission officials) are very clear about it. Our institutions of higher learning will have to follow certain norms.”

The government initiative springs out of a decision reached on Friday at a meeting involving Sarkar, state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and the vice-chancellors of all three universities.

Calcutta University has already issued a circular to around 200 college-affiliates, directing them to abolish the practice of allowing a student with poor attendance to pay a small fine and sit for the exams.

Central to the government initiative is the University Grants Commission’s critical observation that the universities in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal encourage bunking by keeping the ‘fine’ system in place. According to the Commission, “nowhere in India” does such a system exist “There is no denying that the fine system is unique to Bengal... It appears that the Commission is determined to put an end to it,” Sarkar said.

For long, Calcutta University has categorised students with poor attendance as non-collegiate (less than 65 per cent) and dis-collegiate (less than 55 per cent). While the non-collegiate could set the record right by coughing up anything between Rs 20 and Rs 80, the other category found its path to the exam hall barred.

The Bengal government has, allegedly, fought shy of scrapping the penalty-for-attendance clause fearing a student backlash. But the Commission wants it dropped in the current academic year itself. Admitting that the government was “under pressure from the Commission” Sarkar said the universities have been asked to revamp the inspector of colleges departments to monitor attendance records.

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