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.