Taken For A Ride

After 2010 summer protests government of India tailor made a scholarship programme for Kashmiri students to keep them away from stones. But with unauthorised players taking students for a ride, PM’s multi crore special scheme fails to meet the purpose, Riyaz Ul Khaliq reports. 

Technical-Education-siteIn 2012, Sameer Ahmad Ganaie, a class 12th student from Ganderbal district who worked in a local saw mill to support his studies, saw a newspaper advertisement asking students to register themselves for 100% free scholarship. The advertisement was flouted by a private college from Pune. Sameer showed this advertisement to his family and expressed his will to attend this college which had promised studies free of cost. “My family was happy. As if a dream had come true,” Sameer told Kashmir Life just as he came back from Haryana a day ago.

Given the humble background, Sameer had never thought that he could become an engineer. Besides working at a saw mill in his locality, he gave tuitions to children of his area. “I worked hard to support my studies,” he said.

But as he saw the advertisement in the newspaper, his joy knew no bounds and he started preparing for the college in Pune.

“I somehow managed money and left for Pune,” he said. In Pune he met many Kashmiri students who also had reached there to avail the benefits of the scholarship.

Sameer along with other students got admitted in Abhinav Education Society’s college of engineering and technology. Their journey of scholarship started. “We were promised completely free of cost studies which included hostel and mess charges.  But to our surprise, we were charged for everything,” he said.

The advertisement had assured them of all the facilities a modern engineering college should have. But once they started their classes, their fears came true. “They kept 20 students in a small fan less room,” he said.

The students were part of much hyped Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship (PMSS) Scheme for Jammu and Kashmir. PMSS promised students free education along with free boarding, lodging, food and other expenses.

Sameer remembers that teachers would change every now and then. “They would change after every month,” he said, adding, “we were taught by diploma holders as we had registered for degree courses. It was a total injustice.”

After every month, students were asked to pay Rs 2500 as mess fee and Rs 1500 as exam fee. “We had to pay almost all charges. It was not what we were told about PMSS,” Sameer’s friend Wasim told Kashmir Life from Pune over phone. He said that they did not have a required laboratory there.

As the year passed, their exams were near. Sameer, who was to prove his mettle, worked hard to get good marks. “But as the results were declared, only one student amongst the batch of 72 students could pass the exams,” shocked Sameer informed.

“We were asked to vacate or we would had to pay for the next academic session from own pockets that would have amounted to Rs 150000 per annum,” Wasim, who has now admitted to another engineering college on his own said.

Sameer said that he failed to understand the reason behind his failure. “I had worked hard but God knows what happened to my answer sheets.”

Sameer decided to leave the college and go back to his home. Finally, he reached home and started working again at the saw mill and tutoring children of his area. He tried to help his family though through meagre amount.

=In 2013, while Sameer was busy at the mill somebody informed him about full scholarship for engineering students of J&K. “I was informed by somebody about the advertisement, but knowing that I had been ditched last year, I feared telling about it to my family,” he said.

But somehow he mustered courage and told his family about the scholarship. “My parents were skeptical at first but then they permitted after I gave them in writing that this scholarship is not a fake one,” he said.

Once Sameer was given a green signal, next day he reached Srinagar and searched for the address given on the advertisement. After some foot work, he reached the office premises of J&K Peoples’ Forum led by Imtiyaz Malik at Rambagh. “There I was counselled by Dr Abdul Hamid who informed me about the scholarship and I was asked to submit my original documents which I did instantly,” he continues.

Sameer’s happiness knew no bounds. When he submitted documents in March this year, he continued with his work and saved a meagre amount for his travel and studies. “I worked hard as I had promised my father that I would not ask him for the money needed when I leave for the college,” he said.

Sameer continued with his hard work and continuously called Dr Hamid and Peoples’ Forum office to know status of his admission. “They never called me on phone but I would myself enquire about it,” he said, adding, “They gave dates after dates till a bad news reached that I could not get the admission as it all was done on merit basis and I figured nowhere,” he said. Sameer’s dreams were dashed and he could not inform his family knowing the pains they had gone through.

After fifteen days, he called Dr Hamid and Peoples’ Forums’ Rambagh office to know about the status of his certificates but to his surprise Dr Hamid informed him that he had got admission in a college as scholarship had been approved by the Government for everyone. Sameer was too happy and started preparing for the college.

In August when he again dialled Dr Hamid’s number, he was informed to get a call letter from the office.

Early in the morning next day, he reached Rambagh where he was given a list of students admitted in various colleges outside J&K through an e-mail but no letter. He had got admitted in Delhi College of Technology and Management Palwal, Haryana.

Three days after Eid, he left for Haryana with some money in his pocket which he had earned after hard work.

“I was informed by Peoples’ Forum that I will have to pay no fee at all as the scholarship offered covers everything.”

Sameer said that when he stepped inside the college, he was, after due respect, asked to pay Rs 14000 at first instance on account of admission which he could not. Also, he couldn’t find his original documents but only Xerox copies with the admission section there.

His admission file got stopped due to no dues.

Sameer got worried and called Dr Hamid. “He said that I will have to pay the fee, necessarily, negating his own claims,” he said. He added that when he enquired about the original documents, he assured him that he would get them within few days.

“I was asked to call chairman Imtiyaz Malik who talked all but shit.” Sameer said that he was so rude that he talked about the financial position of my family. “Is your father so poor that he can’t pay for your food and arrange a meagre sum for your admissions,” Sameer said quoting Imtiyaz Malik as having told him over phone.

Sameer contacted chairman of the college but could not find any solution. The chairman informed him about the private nature of the college and said that they get no funding for the college. But a day after his disillusionment, he met a person named War Sahib from Baramullah who was accompanying two students for admission to this college. He assured him about the admission. “He was himself a counsellor and talked to principal about us,” Sameer said.

After the deliberations, the files were processed and they were allowed to sit in classes.

“But we had to give in writing that if we won’t pay the fee, our admissions would be cancelled,” he furthers, adding, “I wrote clearly that I can’t pay and if anything happens, contact Imtiyaz Malik.”

He said that he joined his classes and also appeared in two sessionals.

This month, college announced that the PMSS beneficiaries would have to go through physical verification at New Delhi and it started on 09 Sep and completed on 15th.

“Sourabh Ali from our college accompanied us to Delhi,” Sameer said. “On 11th of September, my turn for verification came.”

What worried Sameer was non availability of original certificates, he called Dr Hamid again who asked him to concentrate on studies as certificates would reach themselves.

The officials verifying the credentials of the students informed Sameer that his verification cannot be done unless he gets original documents.

He asked them about the PMSS wherein the reply shocked him. “They told me that only 250 were to be taken for engineering and the NGOs have registered students without any count,” Sameer said.

They asked Sameer to get his documents before 15 September, only then his scholarship case could be considered. Next day he left of Haryana to join his studies. Back in college, Sameer called Dr Hamid again who informed him that he had already dispatched two persons to Delhi with his documents.

Sameer again went to Delhi with Rs 100 in pocket but could not find his documents. The two persons had reached sans his certificates.

Sameer thereafter found no one to help him. He called Imtiyaz Malik and to his surprise, he was informed that when he wasn’t figuring in merit list how come he would get the scholarship.

Ditched and stranded in Delhi, Sameer called his father who sent him some money. He was finally on his way back home. “They wasted two crucial years of my academic life,” said Sameer.

Obaid and Umer, two cousins, from Kral Pora, Srinagar also had applied for the scholarships through Imtiyaz Malik in March this year. They too were assured free scholarship. After they paid Rs 300 for a single affidavit, which costs mere Rs 50 from a local court, at the office and paying Rs 500 per student as tips, they were asked to leave for Punjab within two days.

Finally they reached Desh Bhagat University (DBU), a deemed university which is not approved by Kashmir University.

Obaid and Umer along with 30 other students were told to submit an affidavit promising that if anything wrong happens with the scholarship, they would pay fee from their own pockets. Finally they were not admitted by DBU.

They called Imtiyaz at Peoples’ Forum who told them to try their luck at Punjab Institute of Management and Technology (PIMT). He assured them that his Peoples’ Forum had managed hostel for them. But to their disbelief PIMT too shut their doors. With no option left, they once again called Peoples’ Forum office in Srinagar. “To our surprise they told us to go to a college in Uttrakhand,” says Umar. “It was like a hit and trial method for them. They were randomly sending us to colleges across India.”

When they reached Uttrakhand they were shocked to learn that the said college was fake. “It was the most painful moment. After travelling across India, we were back to square one,” Umar said.

Finally Umar and his cousin came back and took admission in “O” level in computers in Srinagar.

Sensing scam, Coaching Centres’ Association (CCA) of Kashmir had called on government to investigate the matter. Most of the complaints CCA received talked about fake admission letters. Shahid (name changed) accompanied three students from his family to a dental college in Meerut, UP. “I was shocked to know that all call letters were fake,” says Shahid.

Shahid told Kashmir Life that all three students had registered with Peoples’ Forum, headed by Nasrullah group from Rajbagh.

“Since last 2 years, many NGOs, Consultants, Intermediates are fooling students. On one hand, these so called Consultants are charging money from the students; on the other hand many of the sub standard colleges have admitted hundreds of JK students without any fees to fill the seats for seeking AICTE approval,” Er G N Var, Chairman CCA told Kashmir Life.

““How can a college admit hundreds of students free of cost while scheme permits only 5 students per college,” he questioned.

Commenting on the feasibility of the scheme, he said that the scope of competition gets dissolved with this scheme. “How come a student study when he is getting everything free of cost,” he questioned, adding, “The human resource of valley is being destroyed.” Var alleges that these colleges are nothing but poultry farms.

Speaking to Kashmir Life from Delhi, Chairman J&K Peoples’ Forum Imtiyaz Malik refuted all the allegations and said that they were engaged only as to make students aware about the PMSS and nothing else.


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