M A I N   N E W S

St Bede’s college — A victim of its own objective
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 4
St Bede’s, a pioneer in women’s education in Himachal Pradesh, has fallen a victim to its own objective — the proliferation of learning in the hill state. Today,103 years after providing quality education, the college is in a quagmire as it did not change with the times and become self-sufficient.

The premier institution is perceived as elitist and finds little space in the new scheme of things with a cash-strapped state government wanting others to benefit the same way St Bede’s has through government patronage in the form of 95 per cent grant-in-aid.

Though the decision to reduce the grant-in-aid to the college from 95 per cent to 50 per cent has come into force following a notification made by the BJP government this year, the wheels of change had started a little earlier during the last days of Congress rule.

At stake was the issue of either providing financial assistance to only four institutions, including St Bede’s and two DAV institutions, or extending it to 18 privately managed colleges in the state also.

The high court while adjudicating on the issue in 2006 ruled that the grant should be distributed equitably among all colleges and the government should lay down norms to do so. The education department then notified this year that 50 per cent grant-in-aid would be given to all colleges in the state.

Though the new norms seem fair, they do injustice to St Bede’s by equating newly set up institutions with it.Though considered elitist, the college levies a moderate fee and even now charges around Rs 550 per month for graduate studies.

By paying the amount, the students avail of quality laboratories, airy classrooms, one of the best libraries in the city as well as open space and adequate playing fields.

Principal Molly Abraham says her institution has been getting 75 per cent pass marks and is also rated A+ by the NAAC (HP University has a B rating).

“Surely, this as well as the fact that this is the oldest women’s college in the state and a minority institution should be enough grounds for establishing a new criteria to allow us to retain our grant”, she adds.

A reduction in the grant will make it difficult to pay 27 teachers and 23 non-teaching staff whose salaries are being met through the 95 per cent grant which comes to around Rs 1.80 crore.

“We want to be inclusive and are against increasing the fee, but the government is forcing us to keep people away”, she adds.

The government, however, says it cannot help on the issue of grant. Principal secretary, education, P C Dhiman says, “you must realise there are students in other colleges in the state also”.

He said three other institutions, where students came from much poorer backgrounds, were also affected. Dhiman said a relaxation was not possible according to the court judgement as the government could not protect one institution and discriminate against the other.

The state government could not give 95 per cent grant to all colleges as it was finding it hard to fulfill its constitutional obligations towards college education with only 45 private managements getting the grant-in-aid.

(To be concluded)



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