Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[HumJanenge] Mumbai colleges flooded with RTI applications from students

As if students bunking lectures or political parties arm-twisting for
admissions is not enough, city colleges are now facing fresh bouts of
trouble from the student 'RTI wallahs'.

Though the admission season is over, college principals admit that
many students are using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, to ask
balance sheets, last year's admission records, or even certain old
records dating back to the year 1954.

The state had recently declared that RTI Act will become applicable to
private unaided schools as well. The basic problem, as many college
principals claim, is that students, political parties as well as
student organisations are using the act to seek weird information.
"After our third merit list closed in September, we had students
making a beeline to ask for old admission records. And if we refuse to
provide such records they threaten us (with legal consequences)," said
a principal from a prominent south Mumbai college, on the condition of

However, not all such applications can be written off as 'absurd'. For
instance, Ratna Pathak, an FYJC commerce student of Kirti College,
Dadar has filed a query in most of the city's top colleges to find out
the corruption in management, sports and cultural quotas. "Some of the
colleges have responded to the request, but many are pending," she

While city colleges are inundated with RTI queries, Ramnarain Ruia
College, Dadar claims to have had over 100 pending. "Most times,
students just file for the heck of it. They do not even bother to
respond once we give them the information. It puts a strain on our
resources and staff," said Suhas Pednekar, principal, Ruia. "We have
advised students to use the act in a constructive manner," she says.

MB Fernandes, principal of St Andrews College echoed these thoughts,
but she claims to have found a solution to discourage students from
filing pointless queries. "We began collecting money against every
query filed. That has brought down the numbers," she said.

For colleges, this new trend is making life difficult. Recently, many
colleges were fined for not responding to the queries. Five public
relation officers' of city-based colleges have been fined a sum of
Rs25,000 by the state chief information commissioner for not providing
information under the act.

College principals claim that the nature of information sought by
students under RTI, is sometimes strange. But some students have used
it to expose the corruption and malpractice prevalent in colleges for
admissions under management, sports and cultural quota.

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