Chandigarh : Education became a booming business across Punjab over a decade with the agrarian state’s green fields giving way to sprawling campuses of scores of educational institutions, but things have taken a turn for the worst.
If the Punjab Unaided Technical Institutions Association (PUTIA) is to be believed, nearly 400 such institutions with an investment of over Rs.6,000 crore “are on the verge of closure”. The association attributes this situation to the apathy of the state government and other agencies.
“The educational institutions of Punjab are facing a lot of problems because of non-supportive attitude of regulatory bodies like the Punjab government, the All India Council For Technical Education and the Punjab Technical University,” PUTIA president J.S. Dhaliwal said here.
He said around 400 unaided technical institutions of Punjab, including engineering, polytechnic, management, architecture and other professional and vocational colleges, were on the verge of closure.
The affected institutes have called for a conference Nov 18 at Mohali, adjoining Chandigarh, to devise strategies to avoid closure.
The main grouse of the educational institutions is that the Punjab government and other agencies are forcing them to pay commercial rates for everything – from change of land use charges, external development charges, electricity and transport charges and stamp duty.
“We are providing education to several thousand youths in Punjab right at their doorstep. Instead of supporting us in this, the Punjab government is charging all commercial rates. Educational institutes should be exempted from all taxes,” Dhaliwal said.
Officials say the government is considering the demands.
“Private technical institutions have raised the matter with the government. They have some issues on taxes and commercial charges being levied on them. The government is considering their demands and will take a decision,” a senior Punjab technical education department official said on condition of anonymity.
PUTIA is represented by several leading private education groups in Punjab in management, engineering and other professional courses. These include the Rayat Bahra Education group, Indo Global Colleges, Chandigarh group of colleges, Doaba group, Aryans group, Sukhmani group and others.
Together, over 250,000 students study in these private institutions.
“While institutes in Punjab are facing uncertainty and are on the verge of closure, institutions in other neighbouring states are benefiting as governments in those states are helping them set up educational infrastructure,” Anshu Kataria, chairman of the Aryans group of colleges, said .
“Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad offer job scope in the IT sector. So students want to go there. There is no major industrial and IT investment in Punjab. So students are reluctant to come here to study. Punjab is losing its share to other states,” Kataria said.
Private educationists are questioning the stepmotherly treatment towards Punjab’s own institutions.
“While the Punjab government is hell bent on taxing us and applying all commercial charges, it went out of the way with its land largesse to a business school to set up its 70-acre campus in Mohali (near Chandigarh) on a token annual lease of Re.1,” a leading educationist said requesting anonymity.
Dhaliwal and Kataria also pointed out that while private institutions were being taxed heavily, the state government had regulated the fee in these institutions, making these projects unviable.
“In the last 10-15 years, the price of everything has risen except our fee. The government should consider fee revision as the cost of education has gone up drastically,” Dhaliwal said.
“Nearly 95 percent of the technical institutes in Punjab are in the private sector. Despite that, we have no say and are not even consulted while formulating education and technical education policy,” he said.