Let’s Try to Give “ Merit” The Worth It Deserves!

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We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens: Equality of status and opportunity.

-The Preamble of India

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India is a nation whose Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens the right to equality of opportunity as mentioned in the Preamble. India is also a nation where malpractices like Capitation fee are a pervasive reality. And here’s the great lawmakers take on it-Donation laws has no penalty clause. And at the top of that a minister-run college is caught red-handed asking for Rs 20 lakh donation for a medical seat.


The recent Times of India expose of medical seats being put on sale for Rs20-40 lakh by medical colleges in Tamil Nadu has once again brought back the malice of capitation fee to limelight after Supreme Court’s judgment declared charging Capitation fee was illegal in Unni Krishnan Case (1993) and subsequently SC curbing capitation fee on 14 Aug 2003.


Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act passed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharahtra and Tamil Nadu defines Capitation fee as follows:


“Capitation fees” means any amount by whatever name called, whether in cash or in kind paid or collected or received directly or indirectly in addition to the fees determined under Section 4 (Section 4 describes the fee structure for students admissible through Government and Management Quota).


In order words, Capitation fee is something taken over and above what the institution needs by way of revenue and capital expenditure plus reasonable surplus.


Unlike the mistaken belief, there is a stark difference between the admissions through Management Quota and those with the help of donations. Management Quota is an official backdoor. The management is able to get away by charging double the fees, but legally. These management seats are actually meant for business class families where education is less important than the degree.


The hefty donations which are a source of rampant profiteering disturb the regular admission procedure through merit system. Middle class students who are rank holders in merit list in engineering and medical entrance exam often find themselves unable to cough up the huge sums of money required for admission into a private institution if they miss a seat in a government-run college. That’s how they lose their fair opportunity and the government fails to deliver its promises of securing the equality of opportunity. To add more to its ugly side the whole idea of admission through donation discourages middle-class students to slog for a significant rank as they are well aware of how their much deserved seat would be seized by those with the ability to pay capitation fee.


MoS health, Dinesh Trivedi pointed out how capitation fee introduces corruption early in a medical student’s life. Having paid a huge amount to enter medical colleges, doctors are tempted to lower their moral guard when they start to work in order to recover the amount. And I couldn’t agree more with his above statement.


In the absence of clear-cut punitive norms, it’s impossible to eradicate this malice. The law enacted in five states to ban educational donation contains no directions about punishment if guidelines are flouted. Although one can still ponder why no other state (except for these five states) have not passed any such legislation.


The menace of capitation fee is a disgrace to a nation which seeks fair equality of opportunity and social justice. The fact that this practice is prevalent in the society is acknowledged by Indians. Even the street urchins know that private colleges seek capitation fee. The seats in private colleges are filled up much before the awaited result of the exam conducted is declared.


The lack of synchronization between the Union and State has left the private institutions profiteering at the expense of merit. Instead of each State controlling this issue individually the Union should pass a single legislation and this time with a penalty clause for defaulters so that the middle class does not have to dig holes in their pockets to educate their children and each student gets a fair opportunity based on merit. The government should consider framing appropriate regulations and cancel recognitions as well as affiliation given to a professional college if it found to be charging capitation fee or indulging in profiteering.


India is a nation renowned for its pool of knowledgeable doctors and engineers across the world. If admissions continue to be governed by the capability to pay the capitation fee instead of ability, knowledge and merit, then that day is not far when India will lose its stature. Education as a virtue rightfully belongs to all, it is not the domain of the rich and mighty!


Akanksha Luthra

[Image source:http://indiawebzine.com/wp-content/themes/MassiveNews/images/india-education.jpg]

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