Interview with M K Panduranga Setty
Despite reservations over the Siddaramaiah government’s failure to act on its promise of implementing the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, the Karnataka Unaided Private Engineering Colleges Association (KUPECA) has seemingly agreed to continue with admissions to nearly 200 engineering colleges for the 2014-15 academic year under a seat sharing and fee formula agreed upon in 2013-14. There have, however, been contradictory reports on whether KUPECA will sign an agreement with the government for continuing with the 2013-14 system. Ahead of a meeting of its members to finalise a decision, KUPECA secretary M K Panduranga Setty spoke to Harsha Raj Gatty.
There are contradictory reports on KUPECA’s stand on the seat-sharing resolution with the state government.
Before arriving at the discussion with CM Siddaramaiah, I was mandated by KUPECA members to not take any decision without bringing the CM’s stand to the notice of the association. In the course of the conversation, the CM mentioned the government will not change its stand and KUPECA must sign the agreement. To this I specifically excused myself and informed him that I will get back to him after consultation with the association members and other stake holders.
But D Hemachandra Sagar, the president of your organisation, said that KUPECA has agreed to the state government’s demand?
I was officially told by KUPECA to represent them before the government. Sagar was at the meeting in his own personal capacity. He suddenly rose from his chair and told the CM that he would convince the members to agree to go by the government’s formula and subsequently informed the media. I did not contest his claim but later told him to talk to the stake holders on Tuesday.
What is the reason for the government to keep the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, in abeyance ?
Its purely political. The CM himself claimed there is huge pressure from parents, students and political opposition. There is also the uncertainty of the up coming LS polls and he cannot take any decision favouring the engineering institutions. This is despite the fact that all our members have been regularly submitting our working costs to the Supreme Court appointed committee and we trust them for a fair decision on admission and fee procedures.
What is the sentiment of KUPECA members on retaining the old fee structure?
First, there is a soaring cost of salary, benefits, cost of construction, electricity, power, maintenance of infrastructure and providing campus facilities, retaining quality faculty and providing modern facilities. Since we are educational institutions, the government must provide us concession in taxation or list us as recipients of subsidy but this has not been done. Majority of our 205 members of KUPECA are victims of escalating costs and are facing huge debts due to outdated and unscientific policies of the state government. Further, while we encourage the education of poor students and share the government’s sentiment in allocating seats for them, the government is non-committal in reimbursing the fees meant for the reserved categories. It takes them more than two to three years to refund the fee but till then the financial burden is borne by the institution. On one hand the government demands that we provide quality education and on the other hand it is cutting us from the financial resources that we need. The professional educational institutions, especially engineering colleges, are leading a dangerous and unsustainable model of existence and in the current phase are on the verge of collapse.
But your counterparts in the medical field seem to have agreed to the government’s proposal. How come ?
Some of the medical education institutions make Rs 100 crore each year and to them losing a couple of crores is not a big deal. However, our stream does not allow us to sky-rocket the cost of education. Therefore we tend to keep it on the lower side and ask only what is due to us so that we can retain the best talents and infrastructure. It may surprise many but most of the engineering colleges are not even able to make up the cost of their input.
So, from here on, what is the way forward ?
At present, the system is highly unfair and impractical. Perhaps the only way forward is either that the KUPECA agrees to the demands of the state government or the government implements the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006. In any case I would like to clarify that at this point the KUPECA is yet to take a decision.