Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth Trust, the institute that Maharashtra Minister for Education and Culture Vinod Tawde named in his election affidavit from Borivali while declaring himself a BE (Electronics), concedes that it is not authorised to award a degree in engineering. In fact, it has ceased to offer courses of any kind since last year.
“We cannot award a degree of Bachelor of Electronics,” said Arun Kudale, president of Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth Trust, citing a direction from Bombay High Court in 2005. “Such a nomenclature (degree) can only be used by UGC and AICTE-approved universities and since we are not one, we can award a certificate but not a degree,” Kudale told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
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On Monday, Tawde too admitted he received his engineering “degree” from a university not recognised by UGC or AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education). Officials at DVT wouldn’t say categorically, however, that the minister’s degree is fake. “I wouldn’t comment on whether the Bachelor of Electronics degree we issued is unauthorised or not. But I would say that each of these students have earned their degrees by doing as much theory, practical study as any student in a government-approved college. That’s why to call their degree as fake wouldn’t be fair,” said Prakash Kanade, managing trustee of DVT.
DVT was started by late Dr Manohar Apte in 1980. Tawde was there from 1980 to 1984. “The minister was a part of the first batch and completed a four-year degree course,” Kande said. “At that time, government-approved engineering colleges were too few and their cutoffs were very high… So we decided to start offering an alternative and Vinod Tawde was one such student who opted to study engineering, despite being aware of the degree status. It was their passion for education and not a degree that made them opt for it.”
The first major challenge to the “experiment in open education” came in 2005 when a social activist from Thane, Dinesh Kamath, moved Bombay High Court stating the institute is bogus in the absence of approval from AICTE or UGC. “The high court asked us to stop using the name university and stop conferring engineering degrees to students. So since 2007, we have stopped doing that,” Kudale said. “After that we started offering a few short-term courses that were job-oriented but since last year, we stopped even that. Today we are an educational trust with no activities.”
DVT has since also abolished the post of chancellor, once occupied by former Maharashtra chief minister Manohar Joshi.
DVT used to run 33 franchises across Maharashtra and Karnataka and offered diploma and degree courses in engineering. Nearly 5,000 students enrolled every year at annual fees from Rs 22,000 to Rs 25,000.
“We accepted students who scored even 35 per cent,” said Kanade. “We designed our own syllabus, set the question papers and would rent exam halls of schools. Since we didn’t have the infrastructure, we used to send students in the industry to learn practical skills. A lot of industry giants supported us and even sent their employees here for skill enhancement. This was a cost-effective education option that we were offering to students who aspired to study engineering but didn’t have marks or money,” said Kanade. He stressed that at no point did the institution claim to offer a degree approved by the government.
“We made it clear to both students and parents that this is an experiment in open university in the area of technical education,” added Kudale.
The trust has its registered office at a residential building near Vaikunth Crematorium in Navi Peth, Pune. A narrow flight of stairs leads to the third floor where two opposite flats operate as the trust’s office. It wore a deserted look on Tuesday as only four people were present here on Tuesday besides the managing trustee himself. In fact, officials said, they have no one even to update their website, which still shows courses on offer.
“We don’t have any students enrolled in any courses, so it is always deserted. We used to operate as a study centre for Mahatma Gandhi University, Meghalaya, but no students came for those courses either,” said Kudale.
Though the trust has stopped offering degree courses since the high court order, it did try at one stage to upgrade itself. It bought 11 acres of land in Alandi to open an institute where it planned to start degree courses approved by UGC and AICTE. “But the land got stuck in some issues and we dropped the plan,” said Kudale.
Protesters against Tawde’s “fake” degree of Vinod Tawde on Tuesday blackened the boards and door of the trust’s office, besides allegedly locking up employees inside the office. Trust members have approached the local police seeking protection for a couple of days.
“We expect this to go on for a couple of days. Just because our ex-student is now a minister, people have started this politically motivated protest,” an official said.
Tawde so far
Some of the decisions Vinod Tawde has taken as minister
1. Students who fail to clear X will be allowed to reappear in an examination in July; if they fail again they will be provided career counselling; those not good at studies to be provides vocational courses from next academic year
2. Lighter school bags
3. Exam papers to be given to students 10 minutes in advance to relax and prepare them
4. A bicycle to congratulate a Kolhapur boy who scraped through board exam with exactly 35 marks in each subject
5. Yoga to be introduced in schools
6. Multiplexes to show Marathi films in prime time