Education minister Partha Chatterjee clarified on Friday that colleges were at liberty to individually go online for admissions and that the centralised system cleared by his predecessor and stalled by him would be implemented someday.
Chatterjee said the government’s decision not to go ahead with the proposed centralised online system this year didn’t mean it would brook interference in college admissions by student or teacher unions.
“The centralised online system has been temporarily shelved because of some infrastructural deficiencies. We did not say that the centralised online system would never be implemented,” he said in the Assembly.
The education minister did not specify when the government would be ready with a centralised system but gave colleges the freedom to conduct admissions online if they wanted to. “All colleges that had implemented online admissions before are free to follow the online process this year too. The government is ready to help these institutions if they face any difficulty.”
Several institutions in the city and the districts have conducted online admissions over the past few years, including Asutosh College, Lady Brabourne College, Bethune College, Jaipuria College and Surendranath College. Students are required to download and upload admission forms online, based on which merit lists are released over the respective portals. But complaints about admissions “managed” by unions in exchange for donations haven’t stopped coming, especially after the first couple of rounds.
The proposed centralised system was supposed to eliminate the possibility of interference, based on online counselling till all the seats were filled.
Chatterjee, who took over as education minister on May 28, scrapped the centralised online system the very next day. The reason cited for calling it off was lack of computer preparedness.
Sources in the higher education department said they were surprised by the decision because preparations to launch the online system were almost ready when Chatterjee made the announcement.
Many teachers and college heads associated with admissions see the decision to call off the proposed online system as a politically motivated one. The centralised system had threatened to prevent student unions, now mostly controlled by the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad, from using their influence in admissions as a tool to increase membership.
“Chatterjee’s clarification on Friday is possibly a result of the backlash that followed his decision to scrap the proposed centralised system. It did put the Trinamul Congress in an embarrassing position,” a Calcutta University professor said.
The centralised online system was to be introduced this year in all affiliating universities, including West Bengal State University, Burdwan University, Kalyani University and North Bengal University.
Minister Chatterjee said the government would keep a close watch on college admissions this year and take punitive action against anyone trying to manipulate or disrupt the process. “We won’t see the colour of the political party involved in anomalies. Stern action will be taken against those who try to create trouble on campuses.”
The minister said he would convene a meeting of representatives of all student unions on June 9 in the Assembly and discuss with them ways to conduct admissions without a hitch across the state.
The government will also operate a help desk at Bikash Bhavan in Salt Lake to provide admission-related information. The help desk will remain open between 9am and 6pm from June 9.