Kolkata, May 31 (IANS) Nearly 100 days after taking the private hospitals to task for medical negligence and exorbitant bills, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday summoned the authorities of the city’s private educational institutions at the Town Hall and pulled them up for collecting huge fees and donations from students.
The heads and managing committee functionaries of almost all the top schools and colleges affiliated to various boards were in attendance at the meeting where Banerjee slammed a number of them for raising their fees “arbitrarily” and collecting sundry other charges, thereby “greatly inconveniencing” the parents.
Stating that merit of students cannot be judged by money, Banerjee referring to the fee structure of a certain private school, and questioned the legitimacy of taking money on so many grounds.
“Along with the admission fee there are separate session fee, readmission fee and computer fee every year. Apart from this, it is compulsory to purchase school uniform, shoes, school books, exercise books and stationery from school,” she said.
“The students often have to pay the transportation fee separately. Even during the summer vacation, transportation fees are taken in the name of summer camp,” she claimed.
She pulled up representatives of renowned city institutions like St Xaviers Collegiate School, La Martiniere Calcutta and the Heritage School and asked them to check why such huge amounts are taken in the name of admission fee and donations.
“The La Marts takes Rs 2.47 lakh as the admission, highest in the city. Why do you people charge so much? Do you think a student coming from a mediocre background can afford to pay such an amount?” Banerjee asked the school representative present at the meeting.
The school representative tried to put up a defence, but Banerjee had done her homework well.
“The school also takes a lot of donations. There has been a police case against your institution for taking extensive donation. Isn’t there a police case, Rajeev?” she asked, turning to city Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, who was also present at the interaction.
“It is a good school but there might be some middlemen who are making money during the students’ admission. I would request you to break this racket. If you need, we can give you the name of 4-5 people involved in it,” she said.
St Xaviers Principal Father Felix Raj also had a trying time.
Banerjee asked Raj whether they took Rs five lakhs for a course in St. Xavier’s university.
The principal denied initially, but ultimately conceded that such a sum was taken for the mass media course.
Banerjee seemed shocked.
“Five lakhs for education. Oh my God! How is it possible?” she exclaimed.
“I have special respect for your institution. But why do you charge so much? Is there a dearth of money in the institution? You have so many friends and the alumni, why would you do this?” she asked the principal and instructed him to check whether anyone is misusing the university’s name.
Banerjee also flayed the Heritage school for extensive annual fees and asked them to reconsider the fee structure.
“It has to be checked so that donation can be stopped and the entire thing should be made systematic. If fees are taken on regular intervals then it becomes a constant mental pressure on the guardians. We request you to reconsider it,” she added.
Banerjee finally announced a self-regulatory committee comprising authorities of some of the noted institutions, representatives of the police, education department, and district officials.
“Let the self-regulatory committee sit for four times a year. Whenever there is a complaint against any educational institute, the committee will look into it. After a year, I will review what progress has been done,” she said.
At the same venue on February 22, Banerjee had given an unprecedented public tongue lashing to city-based private hospitals for “unethical” money-making practices and announced the formation of a regulatory commission to monitor their activities.