As reported by P C Vinoj Kumar on on 9 February 2008:
Tehelka:: Free. Fair. Fearless

Two Degrees And One Clean Chit

Two senior IPS officers probing corruption charges against former CM J. Jayalalithaa were given engineering seats for their children in Chennai’s Anna University

IF THERE was an example needed of education being a political tool, it can be found in Chennai’s premier Anna University. Two senior IPS officers probing graft charges against former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa obtained seats for their children in the varsity’s engineering course in what protestors describe as a ‘quid pro quo arrangement’. The admissions were secured through a controversial government quota (GQ) under the Jayalalithaa regime. The officers’ children did not have the requisite marks for admission, but were accommodated in the GQ. The quota was scrapped last year by the Madras High Court following a public interest litigation.

A group of activists comprising academics, advocates and civil society groups have come under the banner of the Movement for Education Advancement (MEAD) to demand CBI inquiry into alleged irregularities in admissions under the GQ between 1999 and 2006. They also want the scrapping of the 5-percent Industrial Quota (IQ, see box), in which seats are reserved for industrial groups that have funded the university, and a separate probe against the two police officers, Narinderpal Singh and K. Radhakrishnan.

Singh is currently serving as the Additional Director General of Police, Crime, and Radhakrishnan as the Inspector General of Police, North Zone. Both had served as IGS in the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption (DVAC) during the previous AIADMK regime. At the time their children were granted admission, the DVAC was investigating disproportionate assets cases against Jayalalithaa and some of her senior party members. Praba Kalvimani, a retired professor who is taking an active part in the campaign, says the two officers were in charge of separate special investigation cells in the DVAC. One dealt with cases against Jayalalithaa and the other handled the remaining cases. When the AIADMK returned to power in 2001, the cases were in various stages of investigation and trial. Kalvimani says Radhakrishnan favoured Jayalalithaa in the two cases of disproportionate assets against her. In one case, a final opportunity notice was served on Jayalalithaa in December 2001 to explain the sources of her income. “Jayalalithaa didn’t reply to the notice within the stipulated 30 days. She replied two years later when Radhakrishnan took charge. It was he who forwarded the file favouring Jayalalithaa,” says Kalvimani. In the other case, Radhakrishnan allegedly failed to file a reply through the public prosecutor when Jayalalithaa approached the Small Causes Court in Chennai for vacating the attachment order against some of her properties.

Narinderpal Singh is alleged to have recommended dropping of action against two former AIADMK ministers, KA Sengottaian and B. Valarmathi, against whom disproportionate assets cases were pending. Activists say it was in return for these favours that the children of Radhakrishnan and Singh were allotted seats in Guindy, the varsity’s college of engineering. In 2004, Singh’s daughter Gurbani was allottedcomputer science course on a score of 229.44 out of 300 in the entrance exam. The cut-offs for other categories that year were much higher: 290.52 for open competition, 288.38 for Backward Classes, 279.98 for Most Backward Classes, 265.35 for Scheduled Castes and 244.11 for Scheduled Tribes. In 2005, Radhakrishnan’s son R. Sandheep secured a seat in the electronics and communication course on a similarly below-par score of 188.31 out of 300.

ACTIVISTS SAY they obtained information regarding the admission details of the officers’ children from Anna University under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. T. Sekar, the applicant, says he has been receiving threats from unidentified persons. Says Kalvimani, “Anna University tried its best to conceal the information and kept raising silly queries. At one stage, the applicant received a letter from the Public Information Officer of the university requesting the applicant to appear in person. Sekar wrote to him that it wasn’t necessary under the RTI Act.”

The activists then sought the help of the Yahoo Group ‘Hum Janenge’, run by RTI activists. Members of the forum sent several applications to Anna University from all over India seeking the same information. The university provided partial information in June 2007, and came out with the rest in October following appeals to the Information Commission. Demanding a CBI inquiry against the two officers, the MEAD staged a demonstration in Chennai on January 31 in which Dalit leader Thol Thirumavalavan participated.

When contacted, Narinderpal Singh said he had not done anything unlawful. “I submitted a request to the office of the chief minister seeking a seat about two months before I was posted to the DVAC.” He also denied he had shown any favouritism, saying, “I had no independent powers to take a decision on any case.” Radhakrishnan, a two-time recipient of the prestigious Queen’s Award in the UK — in 2002 and 2004 – similarly denied the allegations. “People are jealous of me and want to spoil my name. If there is any truth in the allegations, let the government take action,” he said. The government is tight-lipped on the issue. Vigilance Commissioner KS Sripathy said, “The matter is under investigation. I cannot divulge any further information.”


Protestors want the pro-rich Industrial Quota in the Anna University scrapped

Activists say the now scrapped 2 percent government quota (GQ) in Anna University may have been a multicrore rupees scam. Anna University’s Vice Chancellor D. Viswanathan told Tehelka that the GQ was increased from six seats to 2 percent of the sanctioned intake in August 1999. The only criteria for admission under this quota were that the candidates should have passed the higher secondary school exam and should have appeared in the Tamil Nadu Professional Courses Entrance Exam. The marks obtained in the exam would be irrelevant. Around 347 students were admitted under the GQ between 2001 and 2006. Activists say each seat fetched a market value between Rs 15-25 lakh. But while the GQ has been scrapped, the Industrial Quota (IQ) remains in vogue. A few industrial groups, which made a one-time payment to the University, are entitled to a fixed number of seats every year for anywhere between Rs 12-15 lakh. A total of 58 students were admitted under this quota in 2007-08. The University says the IQ helps it raise deficit funds. In 2005-06, it received Rs 1.5 crore from such fees. The MEAD has demanded the IQ’s scrapping. “The government spends Rs 750 crore on the free colour television scheme every year. Can’t it find the money to run the Anna University instead of begging before the industrialists?” asks Kalvimani. It remains to
be seen how the Karunanidhi government responds to this new campaign.