Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 8. Most private educational institutions in Punjab, run by charitable trusts, are making huge profits by charging exorbitant fees from students. Instead of ploughing the profits back, these trusts are circumventing rules framed under the Indian Trust Act by using profits to hike salaries of trustees, buying luxury cars or as “rent” for premises owned by one of the trustees.
These startling facts have been brought to light by Ropar-based RTI activist Dinesh Chadha.
Information gathered by Chadha through RTI applications made to various trusts running higher education colleges across the state, reveal how most of them are earning a surplus income of anything between Rs 2 crore to Rs 9 crore per annum. Rather than using this surplus income to bring down the fees or even improve infrastructure, colleges have created a surplus income fund.
Chadha had filed applications with almost all educational trusts running schools, colleges or technical colleges in Punjab.
However, most of the trusts refused to part with information regarding the net income since 2007-08 and the surplus income (after all expenses had been paid). “Only three trusts have provided information regarding income and the surplus income made by them. The surplus income by each of these three trusts is between Rs 2 to 9 crore per annum between 2007- 2011,” he said.
One of the trusts admitted that the trust had purchased luxury cars, including a BMW and Mercedes, for the use of trustees and shown these under expenses head. Another trust had paid Rs 90 lakh per annum as rent for the building where a college was being run by it to one of the trustees itself.
Recently, the Punjab Unaided Technical Institutes Association (PUTIA) — the representative body of private engineering, architecture, pharmacy and management colleges — had moved a proposal to the state government demanding an increase in fee. It had asked for a 50 per cent hike in fee, including levying of certain charges on account of students’ activities, development fund etc beyond the tuition fee. Though the Technical Education Department had approved the hike in fees, the Chief Minister had turned down the proposal.
Demanding that the accounts of all educational trusts should be monitored and proper auditing be done by a regulatory authority, Chadha said he was now sending a letter to the Union HRD Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, to probe flouting of rules by charitable education trusts.