Punjab’s ‘Super 50’: Only six of 200 students made it to JEE advanced test in five years

RTI reply doesn’t say if any student got into the IITs; the project wound down in 2015 for want of funds.

Written by KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR | Amritsar | Published:March 27, 2016 8:05 am

Project ‘Super 50’, an attempt to replicate in Punjab the famous ‘Super 30’ project in Bihar that coaches rural students for admissions to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), was wound down in just five years, in 2015, when the funding for it ran out.

But questions remain about why it had a low strike rate — only six students made it to the JEE Advanced Test out of 200 in those five years — and how the government grant of Rs 2.62 crore given to the special purpose Progressive Educational Society (PES) was spent.

In a recent reply to a query under the RTI Act, PES has said it received Rs 2.62 crore from the Punjab government. So convinced was Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal about the proposal that he arm-twisted the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) to fund Rs 1.40 crore to this project for the first year.

The Super 50 was the brainchild of Prof A S Brar, Vice -Chancellor (V-C), Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU). He formed the PES and was his chairman. In his proposal to Badal in 2010, Brar said the PES would be set up for “preparing rural students of Punjab for admission to Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT)”.

Ex-official principal secretaries to Punjab CM, Higher Education, Finance and Planning of Punjab were members of this society. Honorary secretary of the Khalsa College Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina was also among 14 members of the society.

According to the reply, a total of 200 students were enrolled in ‘Super 50’ in four batches during five years. PES said it has no exact record for 2012-13 and 2013-14 about how many students appeared for the advance test to get admission in IITs. Two students from the first batch of 2011-12 and four students from the last batch of 2014-15 appeared for JEE Advanced. PES has not said in response to the RTI, if any of these six students managed to get admission into the IITs.

The PES spent Rs 1.90 crore of the funding on the tuition fees and on the accommodation of the selected students, to the Khalsa College Governing Council (KCGC). Khalsa College Public School is not a boarding school. Hence, KCGC decided to utilise its unused Jind hostel for college students to host the boys. Girl students were accommodated by KCGC in the girls’ hostel for the college students.

Students, who cleared the entrance exam to become part of Super 50, were enrolled into the KCGC-run Khalsa College Public School, whose Principal is Saravjit Kaur Brar. She is the wife of Vice-Chancellor Brar, and the decision to involve Khalsa College Public School in Super 50 was made by the V-C in the initial proposal.

According to rules, a university is required to invite bids to run any project with investment more than Rs 50 lakh.

Saravjit Kaur was paid an honorarium of Rs 25,000 separately in addition to the salary she was getting as Principal. She was paid Rs 12.60 lakh in five years. It was the highest amount paid to any human resource in the project. No teacher employed for the project was paid more than Rs 10,000 per month. In comparison, a total of Rs 20 lakh was paid to teachers of Khalsa College Public School and other resource persons over the same time period. The number of teachers involved in Super 50 is unclear.

All the money provided by Punjab government was routed through the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) to PSE account.

Rs 4.29 lakh was spent on the photostat and stationery and it was again paid to Khalsa College Public School. Only Rs 2.97 lakh was spent on buying study material.

First grant issued before society formed

It is also interesting that Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) released a grant of Rs 1.40 crore to GNDU on May 31, 2010 before Principal Secretary, Higher Education conveyed the Punjab Governor’s permission to Vice-Chancellor Brar for the formation of Progressive Educational Society on June 2, 2010.

On November 14, 2013, a grant of Rs 70 lakh was released by the department of higher education in the name of Registrar, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar on the condition that the grant will be used by 31-3-2014 and detail of utilization be audited by 31-6-2014. Till date, utilization certificate about the last amount of grant has not been submitted and university says it is under preparation.

The constitution of PES says the annual accounts will be audited by charted accountant. PES, however, decided to appoint Brij Sharma Company as auditor only on August 14, 2015.

‘Satisfied with the project’
Students, who cleared the entrance exam to become part of Super 50, were enrolled into the KCGC-run Khalsa College Public School, whose Principal is Saravjit Kaur Brar.
Excerpts from an interview with her
Why was this project unsuccessful?
The students were from poor background. We had to work hard on them. Initially, they took time to adjust in hostel as none of them had ever lived outside their homes. It is very difficult to get admission in IITs and we had only two years to make them qualify for the same. Still, we are satisfied with the end result of project. It is true that not many students went to IITs. But around 20 students got admission in engineering department in main campus of GNDU. Some others went to good colleges and institutes. One of the students has recently got placed at Rs 4lakh package. These students never thought to reach at the level where they are today.It was this project which prompted Punjab government to open meritorious schools. They are thankful to us.
How many students got admission in IITs?
We have not maintained data. I can recall that one of our students Tajinder Singh got admission in the IIT Kanpur. Few other students also managed to get admission in IITs.
Were Khalsa school teachers paid separately by PES?
All the admission and tuition fee along with hostel fee went to Khalsa College Governing council. We had hired some teachers from outside and PES paid them separately. No Khalsa College teacher was paid separately. KCGC offered no concession for the study of students enrolled under PES.
V-C justifies principal’s ‘hefty’ pay 
‘Super 50’ was GNDU Vice-Chancellor Brar’s  branchild.
Excerpts from an interview with him
Why was Khalsa Public school selected for the project despite the fact that it has no boarding facilities?
No other school was ready to provide hostel facilities. I convinced KCGC to run the project.
For what purpose Rs 25,000 per month was paid to principal?
She was not teaching any subject but she was looking after administration of PES. She was also looking after students during summer and winter vacations and on weekends. So honorarium was paid to her for her services as administrator. It was a difficult job to do.
Did employing research scholars to teach students hurt project?
We could not get proper faculty due to shortage of teachers in Amritsar.