Capitation fee system refuses to go
Capitation fee decapitates professional education
The system of collecting Capitation Fees from students is a malaise that has crept into India’s education sector with alarming ferocity in recent years. It results in a plethora of problems, such as distortion of the merit-based selection procedure, unsustainable monetary burden on the parents, and humongous generation of black money. This has introduced greed, corruption, manipulation and muscle power to the field of higher education.
The wily entrepreneurs, who start the professional colleges with sole purpose of making money, do not re-invest the huge amounts of capitation fees they collect to upgrade the infrastructure of the colleges. As a result, the institutions languish due to poor quality of faculty, laboratories, libraries and other such necessities. The entrepreneur invests his collected money to start another sub-standard institution and collect more money. The graduates pass out with poor education and training. The havoc they cause to the society is easily imaginable.
It has long been decided to put an end to this obnoxious practice of collection of huge fees in exchange of seats. The process amounts to extortion. When a student gets a seat through money power, another meritorious student is denied his rightful claim for admission. So, the collection of capitation fees is immoral and cancerous. The Supreme Court has intervened forcefully in the past to curb this scourge. But, despite the clamour against the practice and its banning by the Apex Court of 2003, the system thrives.
A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court last week highlighted the fact that the practice of capitation fees has defied all the efforts made by the judiciary and the civil society. The Bench has asked former Union Minister and senior advocate Salman Khurshid to go into this evil practice in depth and suggest ways to root it out. In this, he will have the assistance of The governments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have been asked to facilitate his work by providing him with all the assistance.
The Apex Court took this initiative when it was going into the issue of issue of fixation of fee by committees in different States. The issue of minority communities being allowed to run their own institutions is another related area that has generated a lot of contentious debate in recent times. Apart from this, the fixation of an equitable fee structure for professional courses has been the bone of contention between the college managements in one side and parents of the students who send their wards to these colleges for studies.
The Supreme Court’s thinking in the matter of capitation fees is quite clear. In Mohini Jain vs. Karnataka (1992) case, it declared the practice as illegal. In Unnikrishnan J.P. vs. Andhra Pradesh (1993) it unequivocally criticized the practice which has led to the noble profession of imparting education degenerating to crash commercialism. In a latter judgment, in Islamic Academy of Education (2003), the court placed a complete ban on capitation fees.
There are credible reports about a seat in MBBS being sold for Rs. 40 lakh, and a post-graduate seat in medical colleges commanding upwards of Rs. One crore. It is a matter of relief that there has been a glut in the availability of engineering seats which have gone abegging for claimants. As a result, the menace of capitation fees has nearly vanished from this field. Bsignificant revenue potential. But, some colleges still demand get hefty amounts for seats in certain fields.
The eagerness of the wealthy parents to see their sons and daughters get the ‘prestigious’ degrees lies at the root of this continuing menace. Hopefully, the Khurshid Committee, while studying the issue, will weigh this aspect while giving its recommendations.