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Asked about loans, HRD minister talks about autonomy

Some exam-bound students are known to mug up a handful of stock answers and leave the rest to higher powers

By Basant Kumar Mohanty in New Delhi
  • Published 19.07.19, 2:21 AM
  • Updated 19.07.19, 9:11 AM
  • 2 mins read
Ramesh Pokhriyal

Some exam-bound students are known to mug up a handful of stock answers and leave the rest to higher powers.

On Thursday, the Union human resource development minister offered not just students under his care but the entire country a crash course on the pitfalls of such a strategy.

Here’s how the lesson unfolded during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha:

Congress member Ranjib Biswal asked a supplementary question on whether the government would consider allowing students enrolled in self-financing courses at autonomous institutions to wait till they got jobs before repaying their education loans.

HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” replied: “This question is related to autonomy of institutions. The member has expressed concerns about autonomy being used by institutions to start courses and charge high fee. I would like to tell about how our institutions can achieve excellence globally and how they can be given autonomy.

“It is often said that institutions fail to grow under government’s control. We have criteria for giving autonomous status. Those institutions having potential to achieve excellence apply for the status. Then UGC sends team for inspection.”

Several members began protesting that the minister was digressing from the question. Nishank said he was merely responding to the member’s question.

“I am replying to his question. Why is (there) such a concern about additional burden? There is no question of additional burden. The same grants will continue, so there will be no additional burden,” Nishank said.

At this point, deputy Chair Harivansh, who was chairing the session, said: “Mr Minister, the member is asking about students’ loans.”

Nishank replied that the question was about autonomy. “This is about autonomy. I am replying on that. The institutions get additional grants after getting autonomous status. They are independent to start courses,” he said.

Biswal complained that the minister was not answering his question. The deputy Chair advised the member to follow due process if he was not satisfied.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad too expressed displeasure at Nishank’s replies.

Azad said: “(The) minister has not been able to reply to the first supplementary…. The answer should be given to that specific question and that has not been given.”

Nishank responded with a question. “I want to ask, what is its relation with loan? The education loans are given at cheaper rate. There are guidelines for that,” he said.

Congress member L. Hanumanthaaiah asked whether reservations would apply to all autonomous institutions.

Nishank said the autonomous status was meant to make an institution stronger. However, he added, the institutions were governed by the University Grants Commission’s rules.

The deputy Chair reminded Nishank that the member was asking about private institutions. Nishank said the relevant rules would apply.

“What is there in rule will be applicable,” he said.