MUMBAI: Imagine saving a small sum every month for your kids' education and then losing a huge chunk of that amount to a private college management which refuses to refund the fee when you opt out for a better course.

That's what happened to Rajesh Talreja, a clerical employee of a nationalised bank, who had to fight tooth and nail to get his money back so that he could get his daughter admitted to a course of her choice.

Rajesh and his wife, a receptionist-cum-telephone operator with a private firm, always told their daughters that nothing but knowledge will stay with them forever.

Despite financial constraints, the couple from Mira Road in north Mumbai had saved up money so that both their daughters could pursue higher education. Never had Rajesh imagined that a huge part of these savings would vanish into thin air because a callous private college would just not refund the fees despite cancelling admission.

Elder daughter Preeti had decided to get into medicine but her parents suggested that she secure admission in a bio-medical course as a stand-by option.

So, on July 29, 2006, Preeti secured a seat in the FYBE (First year Bio Medical Engineering) course in Watumall Engineering College (WEC), Worli, by paying Rs 49,841.

Her continuance in the engineering college, though,depended on her score in the medical Common Entrance Test.

But when medical and dental admissions got delayed due to disputes in fee structures, the family changed their plan.

As per the WEC prospectus, if the admission was cancelled in four days, 80% of fees were to be refunded, and similarly, if admission was cancelled in six days, 60 per cent was to be refunded. Beyond that, no refund would be given.

"Since we didn't want to lose money in late cancellation, we cancelled the admission in 4 days,"said Preeti's mother Shilpa. However, WEC did not refund 80 % of the fees as promised. "Despite our reasoning, the college wouldn't budge,"said Rajesh.

Not fully convinced about WEC's refund rules, Rajesh moved a Right to Information Act application for clarifications in case of cancellation or upgradation of admission to the Mumbai University, to which WEC is affiliated.

"University officials promptly replied that cancellation amounts were in the range of Rs 150-250 for cancelling a seat within three months of admission,"said Rajesh.

Despite being shown the rules, WEC refused to pay up. "We then approached the registrar of Mumbai university, who told us to present our case in the students grievances redressal council,"said Preeti.

After hearing their case, the university wrote to WEC, ordering it to abide by the rules and refund the fees. WEC refunded 80 % of the fees after three months of chasing his money.

He used that money to admit his daughter into a course she always wanted to pursue — dentistry.

Preeti is now in first year BDS in a Navi Mumbai college. "I owe it to my parents,"she says.

But Rajesh has not given up as yet. He says WEC should have deducted only Rs 250 and not 20 % of the fees and will continue his quest for justice.

When contacted by TOI, WEC principal Sandhya Desai said that rules set by the Directorate of Technical Education and not those of the Mumbai University are applicable to them in case of admission and fees.

The Shikshan Shulka Samiti, the state fee fixation body had approved their refund rules for the year and hence 20% of the fees were deducted before paying the refund.

Given this scenario, Rajesh is campaigning to ensure that refund rules of all colleges are in line with those of the universities they are affiliated to.

(Source: Times of India, Mumbai, Dec.23,2006)