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Chennai college profs “beat” up students

Chennai college profs “beat” up students after deemed univ cancellation

Unfortunate as the deemed university controversy might seem, the story of Saveetha School of Engineering, Chennai, reveals why it was needed.

According to students of the institute, a team of professors from Saveetha School of Engineering allegedly entered the campus hostels on 19th January and physically abused them, after the students went on rampage and burnt furniture. Saveetha Institute of Technical and Medical Sciences figures in the list of 44 universities listed by the UGC whose deemed status stands cancelled.

The students on campus has gone on a protest rampage and broken and burnt chairs following the announcement. The police had to be called in to control the crowd.

After the incident, the students alleged that four faculty members (NM Jothi Swaroopan, S Balaji, M Ravindran, and another unidentified member) entered the hostels and ordered immediate vacation of the same. A student of the hostel alleged, “They asked us to accompany them and told us they would help us pack our bags. When I entered the room, they closed the door and one of them (NM Jothi Swaroopan, who is the head of the EEE department) grabbed a knife and M Ravindran threatened to kill me if I didn’t confess to being one of the students in the earlier rampage. I was alone in the room, as my roommate had already left. He also accused me of breaking the projector and asked me to pay up Rs 40,000. They snatched all our cell phones and broke them.”

Another student reported, “There is no proper management in our college. The fees are extremely high and increase every year. We pay Rs. 90,000 per year as tuition and Rs 60,000 as hostel fees and we don’t even have good books in the library. We finished our previous semester in October and the new session started in November. In fact, we are being asked to pay the fees for the June session in February itself. Our teachers are inexperienced. Most of them have just completed their engineering, and are here to add experience on their CVs. We haven’t had any placements from the college. Our seniors (2009 graduates) had to go off campus to get jobs.”

On the same campus is situated the Saveetha Engineering College which doesn’t come under the Savitha University but is affiliated to the Anna University, and The regular practice, the students allege, is to show to prospective students the well-developed infrastructure of the Saveetha Engineering College before admitting them to the Saveetha School of Engineering. Even the photographs seen on the website are that of Saveetha Engineering College (affiliated to Anna University), alleged the students.

The students also complained of irregularly high examination fees and unreasonable fines. The college charges Rs 500 per paper for writing the examination, as opposed to the Rs 100 fee charged by other colleges and a staggering Rs. 1,000 per paper for re-evaluation (Other colleges charge around Rs 300-500). “Re-evaluation is just for namesake in our college. Once, in a paper, only 15 out of 60 odd people from a class passed and everyone put in a re-evaluation form. The teacher said only re-totalling would be considered,and the result was the same,” alleged the student.

The college has a strict minimum of 80 per cent attendance limit, which would have been okay if the college didn’t force the students to buy their way out. If a student falls below it, he/she is fined Rs 1,000 per per cent less than the required 80 per cent (So if you’re attendance is 76 percent you would be fined Rs 4000). And the ones with attendance less than 60 per cent are barred from writing the examination and have to repeat the whole year (unlike other colleges).

The students have also alleged that after the violence, they are being threatened with a hefty 50,000-rupee fine. “There are rumours flying around that a list of around 200 students will be drawn up based on videos put up on Orkut and YouTube. FIRs will be lodged against the first 10 on the list, and the rest will have to pay a heavy fine,” said a distressed student. But after the incident, all hostels are lying empty and classes have been suspended.

Saveetha School of Engineering is a part of Saveetha University, whose Chancellor is Dr.N.M.Veeraiyan. According to the website, the institute conducts its own all India entrance test, but the real story is allegedly quite different. “No one gives any test here. Everyone gets in through an admission officer or a donation seat,” said a third-year student.

An admission officer is a person who sells seats allegedly in partnership with insiders on the college administration. The student continued, his allegations “There are many north Indian students here, many from Bihar. That is because the admission officer (AO) is from Bihar. During the months of April-May, the AO goes to his native state, and offers seats for large amounts (around 90,000 to several lakhs). He then secures admission for that candidate, and pays a commission to his partner in the college administration and takes a cut himself. I haven’t given any test. I’ve paid a donation of Rs 1 lakh.”

The college has allegedly gotten a bond signed by the students where they certify that none of them have actually paid any donation to the college and all money being paid is under the head of ‘capitation fee’. And if the student refuses to sign the bond, he/she was allegedly threatened with attendance cuts, which again result in fines.

Deals with the AO are allegedly struck to the tune of up to Rs 2-3 lakhs for engineering seats, depending on the reputation of the college concerned. The AO keeps up to one lakh as his commission. The procedure is pretty well known to most local students, and is smoothly executed every year.
Mr S Balaji, a lecturer in the Computer Science department (who was also allegedly involved in the physical abuse incident) said, “It was an order from the administration to empty the hostels. We haven’t hit any students and there was no physical abuse whatsoever.” Regarding the high fees and other allegations by the students, he said, “I cannot say anything. That is a matter for the administration to handle. I’m just a staff member.” Balaji also denied having the contact numbers of any of the other staff members, or anyone from the administration.

All efforts to contact the the college management yielded no results. We tried contacting the other colleges of the university, but the contact numbers given by them too weren’t working. According to the telephone operator at Saveetha Engineering College (under Anna University), Saveetha School of Engineering would re-open in February as “there was some problem at the college”. She gave us a landline number to the principal’s office but it was switched off and the no one answers the phone enlisted on their website.

The Supreme Court has now ordered a status quo on the order and has issued notices to each of the 44 universities and the next hearing is on March 8.

-Saurabh Datar

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