School scam exposed in Mumbai

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 July, 2003, 12:00am

Privately run medical and engineering colleges in Mumbai are charging students up to three million rupees (HK$505,000) - 1,000 times more than the government-approved fees for a place.

Even more shocking, some of the colleges involved are run by state officials in charge of regulating private schools.

The racket was exposed yesterday by journalists of New Delhi Television (NDTV) who posed as students and secretly filmed negotiations with college authorities as they tried to get enrolled.

Under the law, admission to private institutions must be merit-based and the fee structure has to be approved by the government.

Observers say parents are often willing to part with a fortune for a university place for their children as their investment is easily recovered within a few years. Doctors and engineers are among India's highest-paid professionals. And a groom with a medical or engineering degree fetches a very high price - up to five million rupees - in the marriage market.

According to NDTV, government regulations are flouted with impunity as 85 out of 112 private medical and engineering colleges in Maharastra are owned by politicians belonging to various parties.

Bharati Vidyapeeth, one of the institutions found charging exorbitant fees illegally, is owned by Industries Minister Patangrao Kadam - who is a key member of the state government's regulatory body for keeping an eye on private colleges.

Many of the people who watched the NDTV expose have expressed disgust and outrage, but observers were not surprised.

'Corruption pervades all aspect of life in India - from getting a telephone or gas connection to school and university admissions,' said Manojit Mitra, a leading social commentator.