If there was one minister who was found too busy during the final days of the ongoing budget session of the legislature, it was Higher Education minister C T Ravi.
On Friday too his hands were full. He got four more bills which facilitate establishment of private universities were passed in the Legislative Assembly and Council.
The bills which were passed in the Council in a matter of ten minutes, without any discussion, saw its members stage a walkout in protest against the government’s move. Though members in the Assembly did not staunchly oppose the bills, they did question the credentials of the varsities proposed to be set up.
The bills, piloted by Ravi, that got the clearance are: Vydehi University Bill, 2013; Garden City University Bill, 2013; JSS Science and Technology University Bill, 2013; and Srinivasa University Bill, 2013.
In the Assembly, members opposed the three bills, but not the JSS Science and Technology University Bill. Sharan Prakash Patil (Cong) said that permitting setting up of a large number of private universities had become a “money making business.”
He demanded that the government enact a “Private Universities Bill Act,” which could frame rules and guidelines and act as a regulatory authority. “It is highly irresponsible of the government. It is unfortunate that it is stooping so low. It is a black mark to the House,” he said.
Ravi said that owing to technicalities, the government could not bring in single legislation. He said that the suspicions expressed by the legislators had hurt his sentiments, and that he had taken the decision only in the interest of bettering the education sector in the State.
He said that permits were given to the varsities only after scrutinising them thoroughly. In case of irregularities or malpractices there was a provision to close the varsities, while the wrongdoers would attract two years of imprisonment, he added.
In the Council, before walking out, Leader of the Opposition S R Patil said the government had presented the bills on the last day of the session, giving no time for the members to study the background of the institutes. JD (S) member Basavaraj Horatti alleged that the State government has commercialised the provision made for setting up private universities.
“On February 13, 2013, rooms were booked in a City hotel by the government to have a meeting with vice-chancellors, who were summoned from varsities in Mysore, Mangalore and other places. Even officials of department concerned participated in the meeting where the private universities bills were prepared.
The entire exercise was done hastily,” he said. Horatti said that Vydehi Institute did not have good credentials and students from the Institute had staged protests in the recent past. However, Ravi, said that no official complaint had been booked against the institute.
The minister said the government would take steps to form a regulatory body to control the activities of the private universities in future. “The Higher Education Council will also be strengthened in coming months to heighten vigil on private varsities,” he assured the House.