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Excess fee, illegal quota finger at Bengal colleges

El-Bethel BEd college; (right) Pailan College of Management & Technology, in whose building BEd classes are held. Pictures by Sanat Kumar Sinha

Calcutta, July 6: The anomaly in admissions to Bhaktabala BEd College in Nadia’s Chapra is the tip of the iceberg, a senior education department official said.

According to him, the BEd education system in Bengal, which is heavily dependent on fledgling private colleges, has several other problems.

From allegedly charging fees higher than the ceiling set by the state government to taking in students under a “management quota” although no such provision exists, a section of private BEd colleges are freely bending rules in the absence of any monitoring by the state government.

“There is little doubt that the private colleges need to be monitored. Otherwise, the anomalies and malpractices we saw in the Nadia college will keep getting repeated,” an official said.

The Telegraph visited several BEd colleges.

Students ‘fleeced’

The higher education department issued an order to all state universities on May 14, setting a uniform fee structure for the one-year BEd course for the 2014-15 academic year.

The order, which has reached Calcutta University along with the other varsities, read: “The undersigned is directed to advise that respective affiliating universities may fix a ceiling of Rs 50,000 only…. This fee does not include hostel/boarding and lodging fees, where applicable.”

But this newspaper found out that different colleges were charging different rates from students.

Several CU students admitted to various private BEd colleges told this correspondent that they were charged between Rs 80,000 and Rs 1.2 lakh as course fee.

“El-Bethel BEd College in South 24-Parganas’ Rasapunja has charged me Rs 1.2 lakh. Since the Union human resource development ministry has made the degree compulsory for appearing in the teacher recruitment test, I had to settle for the exorbitant fee,” said a student from Diamond Harbour, not willing to be named.

Union HRD minister Smriti Irani is learnt to have made it clear to some aspiring teachers during a trip to Calcutta on Thursday that a one-time relaxation to allow candidates without BEd degrees to appear for the school service recruitment examination would not be extended.

Some students of Pailan BEd College, run by the Pailan Group in South 24-Parganas, said they were charged Rs 78,000 as course fee.

An institute official in charge of admissions said the college was yet to receive the order on the centralised fee structure. “Our course fee for the general seats is Rs 78,000,” she said.

Students of Indira Gandhi Memorial BEd College in Howrah’s Udaynarayanpur said they had been asked to pay Rs 50,000 by December, in addition to the Rs 50,000 they had paid during admission. “I have been told that the fee has been increased to Rs 1 lakh,” a student said.

Institutes’ response

Mitali Panda, the principal of El-Bethel College, said the institute had just received the CU circular. She said the college had charged Rs 1.2 lakh from students who had taken admission so far.

Panda said the course fee was Rs 50,000 while the remaining was for food and lodging. Food and lodging charges can be taken from those students who seek residential facilities. She did not clarify whether Rs 1.2 lakh had been charged from every student or only those who have availed themselves of residential facilities.

Panda said a private BEd college could not be run with a fee cap of Rs 50,000. She said, “ideally”, the ceiling should be Rs 85,000. “How can we pay our teachers if the course fee is just Rs 50,000. Besides, it would be difficult to maintain the infrastructure,” she said.

Asked if El-Bethel would refund the students, Panda said: “We will have to see what can be done.”

The principal of Pailan BEd College, Manjusha Tarafdar, said the institute’s course fee was Rs 50,000, but another Rs 28,000 was charged as caution money and for excursions and uniforms.

“The CU order does not say additional fees cannot be taken,” Tarafdar said.

Sunit Ranjan Kanrar, the secretary of Indira Gandhi Memorial BEd College in Howrah, denied the allegation that an extra Rs 50,000 had been charged from students.

Management quota

El-Bethel and Pailan have admitted students under the management quota, this newspaper found out. At El-Bethel BEd College, a student seeking admission under the quota had to pay Rs 1.8 lakh. Students getting admitted under the quota at Pailan had to pay Rs 1.6 lakh, sources said. Students of Indira Gandhi Memorial BEd College alleged that 25 people had been admitted under the management quota.

Education department officials said there was no mention of a management quota in the fee structure order. “Private engineering colleges are allowed to take in students under the management quota, provided they offer fee exemptions. There is no such provision for BEd colleges,” an official said.

Institutes’ response

El-Bethel principal Panda claimed CU had “not barred” admissions under the management quota.

Pailan principal Tarafdar said she was “not aware” of the management quota and told this correspondent to get in touch with Ananya Roy, “who oversees the admission process”.

Roy could not be contacted. An official in the admission cell said students had been admitted under the management quota. The official refused to identify herself.

Kanrar, the secretary of Indira Gandhi Memorial BEd College, said the institute had “provisions” for admitting students under the management quota. The CU circular does not mention students cannot be admitted under the quota, he said.

The college has set aside five of the 100 seats for admissions under the management quota, Kanrar said.

“Although we are yet to admit students under the management quota, the Calcutta University order does not say that it has barred admissions under the quota,” Kanrar said.

What CU says

CU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das said he was yet to receive any formal complaint on excess fees.

The university had told colleges to collect copies of the government’s fee-ceiling order from CU. Das said CU had informed all BEd colleges affiliated to it to collect the order.

“The colleges are supposed to abide by the fee structure. If any formal complaint on excess fee is received, we will inquire into it,” Das said.

He also said the order had been sent to some colleges.

On the management quota, Das said: “If I receive complaints that students were admitted under the quota, the university will look into the issue.”