Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Free education: A Pathway to loot in TamilNadu?
Food materials rot in carelessly maintained storage, but Government would stick to the "No Free Lunch" policy. The prices of food items sky rocket, yet the Government would look at it only as a matter of taming the numbers. The cantankerous neighbors would do all the provocative acts to question the sovereignty of the nation, but the Government would sit silent in talks with them hoping for a tranquil neighborhood.
The freebies to sustain vote and hence power by Government of TamilNadu, though making the people lazy in one view, remains only in tricky words making a mockery of the system and the people who trust the Governments words, fools. The bureaucracy is well trained to give better governance but used to make the governance a farce by the political clan. The rulers promise heaven but that comes with a T&C apply caveat, which is almost concealed from the public. The argument that this is a political ploy, programmed in a never ending a loop, to make the people suffer and for the Government to then step in for their relief is debatable but with known results.
While reading through one of my friend Saravanan's blog, I found a kind of a usual event in the Government's service delivery failures, effected by the T&C caveat. The TamilNadu Government has promised free education for the first graduate child from a family. Many families have buoyed at this announcement and have taken their children to be admitted to colleges, despite college education being economically unaffordable for them. But colleges have collected fees, exorbitant from the poor man's stand point, though admitting students under the Government's free first graduate scheme.
When inquired upon about this controversy, people who are in the know say that the Government has offered only free tuition fees and not an all expenses paid education. The Government earlier in 2008 had conditions in reimbursing tuition fees, special fees, non-refundable compulsory fees as fixed by the Government and the examination fees to students, but had waived all those conditions it had for the free education in 2009.
With a view to encouraging students who do not have any graduate in their families so far and pursue professional education after securing admission under the single window system, the Government has decided to bear the entire tuition fee payable by these students in government and private engineering, medical, dental, agricultural, veterinary and law colleges, irrespective of their caste or income, said the Governor in his address to the State Assembly on 6th of January 2011.
The problem with the service delivery system of the Government is that the policies take a different form when implemented. What happens in the middle is the imperious attitude the bureaucrats carry through from the British Imperial ruling setup. The politicians concentrating on their Return on Investments, predominantly financially, pay little attention to such issues faced by minions.
The college under public dissent now, was seen in the news for all good reasons till recently. But the circular (circulated in Saravanan's blog post) rings alarm bells. The items mentioned in the fee structure gets one to wonder what ways one has for minting money after starting a college. A fee is charged for verification of different certificates and marks statements, Insurance premium (who took it for whom?) is charged, but whether they provide policy details is a question worth the 2G loot.
Which academic society admits people at Rs.300/- is a question for people in the know to answer. Also there is an over head other fee for Rs.10000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand only). Some say that Academic Society in colleges include Fine arts club, Debate Club, Quiz club, Microsoft campus club, IE(I) student chapter, IEEE forum, CSI forum, Reader club etc. Students from that college say that the management had itemized that other fee of Rs.10000/- as charges for campus interviews to be conducted at their final year of study.
When a college can afford to give all such academic club facilities for 300 bucks, what is reason for charging 10000 bucks for conducting campus interviews? That defies logic given to understand the sluggish hiring and plummeting recruitment through campuses. Also, insider information, unconfirmed though, say that the Government which should have paid Rs.32500/- had paid only Rs.20000/- to the college for 183 students under this scheme.
Reason cited for this under payment was financial crunch for the Government! Unbelievable, given fact that the State Government had come up with a surplus budget couple of years ago!!! The fiscal responsibility initiatives were also scuttled citing various laughable reasons, so no tough financial measures are reason for this short funding except the obvious, mismanagement.
The defenses coming in favor of the college under discussion are of known nature. They have not violated any rules. They are reputed institution. They have conducted many international technical seminars and are part of many international academic forums. Price waterhouse Coopers, the MNC audit firm was auditors for Satyam computers. Both PwC and Satyam were reputed, part of international fora, so on and so forth. Still, we had the mammoth scam for which PwC also lost its reputation for being a mute spectator/silent partner. So, reputation and membership of forums are not immunity against wrong doing.
Yet, we have to blame the Government for this mess up, since the policy was clear, but implementation was a bad mess up. This is a serious problem with Governance in India. Policies take a different form when they are implemented and the beneficiaries end up bearing the brunt. Reason? The carrying on of the imperious attitude by the bureaucracy right from the days of the Imperial rule. Bureaucracy is trained to assist in delivering better Governance, but it is used to assist the betterment of the rulers.
People are readying a petition to the State Education minister for help. This may help as it is election time and we can expect a verbal reaction from the rulers, since we have hardly seen any concrete action on any issues in the near past. We may trust the opposition parties to take the issue up, but the solution to the issue could not be guaranteed, since it may end up becoming a political tussle.
I suggested to write to Kapil Sibal, but with him inseparably entangled in the spectrum of error reporting right from CAG on 2G to CAT 2010 results, he would not be of much help. Cannot expect PM to help as he would simply reiterate his doctrine of no free lunch despite pulses rotting and the human pulses plummeting. The CM of TamilNadu may talk evoking emotion on this issue, but when it comes to action he would goof up, habitually.
We cannot trust the TN Government for clear action on this case, as we have evidences of inertia even in sensitive issues like the business of education. The Government is famous for its preference of sloth in the school fees issue. Committee after committee has been formed and decisions are deferred sine die. The Government practices the management saying "When you cannot commit on something, form a committee."
The judiciary could help, but the process is unduly time consuming. Blaming the college won't work as it is the Government which has played a kind of crossword puzzle with its promises and the sentiments of the poor people. So, what could be done in this case to get justice? Threaten with your votes as it is election time, people! Nothing else would work. Threaten the rulers with dire electoral consequences by blowing this issue up!