Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Naveen Nair - Suicide of engineering student blows the lid off the rot in Kerala’s private colleges

The alleged suicide of Jishnu Pranoy, a first-year engineering student in Kerala on January 6, has opened a can of worms in the state’s self-financing private college sector. A campaign against the 18-year-old’s death has snowballed into a statewide campaign against private self-financing engineering colleges, encouraging several students from private colleges to come out with horrific accounts of physical, mental and sexual harassment by college managements that are being widely circulated on social media.

Pranoy was a student at Nehru College of Engineering in Thrissur district. According to the college, Pranoy hanged himself inside his room after he was allegedly caught cheating during an examination. However, his classmates and senior batch mates are unanimous in saying that the boy was badly beaten by the college management for questioning why the examination was being conducted by a private agency instead of by the college itself.

Several complaints
Kerala has 156 engineering colleges of which 119 are run by various private trusts and individuals. The self-financing colleges have mushroomed across the state in the last decade or so. Set up in 2014, the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, oversees the functioning of all these colleges.

Following the Pranoy case, several complaints from other private colleges have been made to the university, which has since ordered a review of these colleges, and also appointed an ombudsman to look into complaints. The complaints indicate that some private colleges seem to be run like personal fiefdoms of their directors-cum-owners.

“From the complaints we have now received from parents and students we understand that some colleges were engaged in physically and mentally harassing students in the name of discipline, which is not acceptable,” said Professor Abdul Rahman, pro vice-chancellor, APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University. “So we have set out a fact-finding mission and will submit a report to the state government for further action.”

The State Youth Commission, a quasi-judicial body, which is also in the process of gathering evidence and statements from students and parents of private colleges, is also expected to step in with stringent recommendations. “We have come across some shocking evidence of harassment while making visits to colleges following complaints,” said Chintha Jerome, chairperson State Youth Commission. “At the moment we have officially registered complaints against three colleges, although with every passing day students and parents are calling us from many places. So the commission has decided to issue strict guidelines and recommend that the government enact a new law to prevent this harassment.”

Jishnu’s death: Suicide or murder?
Students at the Nehru College of Engineering say that Jishnu Pranoy was beaten up by staff members at the behest of the college management for questioning why a private agency was conducting the examination… read more: