‘Students’ union leaders have created their own cartels in colleges’.
The extortion racket for admissions at various colleges across West Bengal, allegedly run by students’ union members of the ruling Trinamool Congress, continues unabated despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee taking strict action against some of the party’s student leaders who were reported to be involved in such incidents.
Students seeking admissions in various colleges across West Bengal have said that the money demanded allegedly by students’ union members for admissions to colleges, ranges between Rs 5,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh, depending on the courses and the paying capability of the student. A second year student from a renowned college in Kolkata told this correspondent, “Students’ union leaders, mostly from the TMC, have created their own cartels in almost all colleges in Kolkata. During the admission season, it is their (union leaders’) time to make money and get funds for the party and the union. Therefore, they look out for their prey and pounce on them, charging exorbitant amounts of money, depending on the course as well as the financial capability of the student to get them a seat in the desired college.”
A Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) leader from Kolkata told this correspondent that this has been going on in colleges across Kolkata and West Bengal from the last many years and it is not something that can be done away with overnight. “This culture came in colleges during CPM rule and it continues even now. The student unions look out for students who need help for admissions in colleges and a fee for that is charged. Some part of the money is deposited in the party fund, while the rest is distributed among the students’ union members. The fees for helping in admissions depend on the course one is looking to be admitted to—for a BA Pass course, it would be somewhere between Rs 5,000-Rs 7000, while the highest is for microbiology courses where the rate can go up to Rs 1.5 lakh,” the leader said. Sources have also said that this racket is operated in connivance with staff responsible for admissions in the colleges and this is a well-known “secret” among students in Bengal’s colleges. A former students’ union president of a college in Kolkata told this correspondent how the college staff and students’ union leaders are hand-in-glove during the admission process. Recently, staff members from Jaipuria College in Kolkata were found to be involved in the racket and several marksheets and other documents were seized when the police raided their offices and residents.
“The staff in colleges are well aware and help union leaders get admission of students in the colleges. Clerks and some junior staff of colleges get their own share when they help in admissions. The forms and declaration of merit lists are also tweaked to favour the union leaders who mostly belong to the ruling party. This is very rampant across all colleges in Kolkata. Even senior political bosses and local ruling party leaders help the union leaders get these admissions done,” the former president said.
The racket had led to widespread protests by Opposition parties in Bengal, demanding fair play for students during admissions to various colleges in Kolkata and Bengal. The Bengal government has also said that next year’s admission process would be made online and payment of fees for admissions would also be made online or only through banks to check such malpractices in admissions.
The Kolkata Police has arrested a few leaders belonging to the TMCP after reports of such malpractice went viral in media and on social media. Kolkata Police arrested Titan Saha, the former general secretary of TMCP, who was allegedly demanding money for admission into undergraduate courses. Sheikh Jasimuddin, a second year student, was arrested for allegedly accepting Rs 30,000 in lieu of promising a student admission in the Zoology course of a college, while other TMCP members like Ritesh Jaiswal and Lal Saheb Gupta were also detained by Kolkata Police for indulging in malpractices for admissions in colleges. The BJP in Bengal has accused senior leaders of the TMC and union leaders of the TMCP of being “hand-in-glove” for facilitating the admission racket. Sayantan Basu, spokesperson and general secretary of Bengal BJP, said, “The actions by the CM and police are an eyewash; the detained people will all be let off as the matter subsides. The action came only after protests across Bengal against these illegal admission mafia. The education system in Bengal is mired in corruption and all senior leaders of the ruling party know about this.”