Why shouldn’t Right to Information Act be applied to self-financed engineering institutes as well?

Reading room of a self-financed college in Gujarat

By Vinodray Parmar*

Here I have tried to justify the need for roping in self-financed institutes (SFIs) of Gujarat under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the basis of my experience of about 16 years of working with three SFI degree engineering colleges.

RTI must be applied to them, too, because…

(1)       Generally the Institute is managed by a Charity Trust registered with The Charity Commissioner.

(2)       The Board of Trustees comprise of Trustees plus representatives from All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), affiliating University, director of technical education, industrialists, academicians of the respective State etc.

(3)       The institute is approved by AICTE, New Delhi.

(4)       The institute is affiliated to a state university.

(5)       The institute is recognized by the director of State Technical Education Board.

(6)        The fees are governed by the Fee Regulatory Committee of the State government.

(7)       The students are admitted through the Centralized Admission Committee of the State government.

(8)        The land is generally acquired from the State government at a subsidized rate.

(9)        The examinations are conducted by the affiliating university.

(10)      The degree is awarded by the affiliating university.

(11)      AICTE provides grants for modernization of laboratories under the National Facilities in Modernization and Removal of Obsolescence MODROB scheme.

(12)      AICTE provides grants to establish and run various centers of excellence /activities.

(13)      Accounts are audited by recognized chartered accountant and are submitted every year to the Charity Commissioner, the affiliating University, the AICTE, and the Director of State Technical Education Board.

(14)      The institute is a member of various professional bodies like the Indian Society for Technical Education, the Computer Society of India, the Institution of Engineers etc., and also gets grants to organize seminars/workshops from them.

(15)      Employees are members of Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) for  provident fund.

(16)      Employees/members are insured for gratuity with the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India.

(17)      Employees are generally made members of Group Savings Linked Insurance of the LIC of India.

(18)      The government reimburses fees of the poor students and the girl students admitted under the Tuition Fee Waiver Scheme.

(19)      Scheduled caste/scheduled tribe (SC/ST) students’ tuition fees and hostel fees are reimbursed by the State government through the institute.

(20)      Employees are deputed for election duty during State assembly and Parliamentary elections.

(21)      The transporter gets subsidy in RTO tax for transport facility provided to the students for buses/vehicles which are used exclusively for the government recognized educational institute.

(22)      The institute gets various tax exemptions/discounts while purchasing equipment, hardware, software, books for library, subscriptions to magazines, e-libraries etc.

(23)      The appointment of teaching staff is as per AICTE norms/state university norms, and interviews are conducted under the supervision of representatives appointed by the affiliating university, and also the appointed teaching employees have to be recognized by the University Committee.

(24)      Employees are allotted examination duties as supervisors/observers/squad members  and also have to assess the answer sheets compulsorily as allotted by the controller of examinations of the affiliating university.

(25)      In fact, the term Self-Financed Institute (SFI) itself is a misnomer. These are student-financed institutes, because all the recurring expenses, especially salary expenditures, are financed by students, and hence the Fee Regulatory Committee governs the fees as per the strength and quality of the teaching staff, infrastructure and other essential facilities.

Essentially, SFIs are fully governed and controlled by government Authorities like grant-in-aid institutes. Though they are not substantially financed by government, they are reasonably financed indirectly by the government. Also, they are established for the sole purpose of charity and get many financial and tax benefits from the government for charity.

Though they are not substantially financed by the government, they are substantially financed by the public, i.e. parents of the students who pay huge amount of fees compared to government/grant-in-aid Institutes. Also they enjoy many tax benefits as well as get grants for many activities.

The Trustees are supposed to be the custodians of the fees collected from the students and not the owner of the crores of rupees collected from the students. Hence, public and government both being substantial stake holders, they should be termed as Students’ Financed Institutes  and must be brought under the RTI Act.

*Retired professor, ex-engineer, Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmdabad


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