Coincidence or clout? 5 institutes with political links win best college awards

Total seven colleges — three urban and four rural — were selected by the committee appointed by University of Pune; cooperation minister Harshawardhan Patil felicitated his own college, despite not even being invited for the event

Of the seven educational institutes that received the best college awards for the year 2013 on the 65th foundation day of University of Pune (UoP) on Monday, five had clear political affiliations.

Odd man out: State cooperation minister Harshawardhan Patil (in Nehru jacket) at the awards ceremony on Monday. Pic/Mohan Patil

A startling incident that came to the fore was the presence of State Cooperation Minister Harshawardhan Patil on the dais, despite not even being invited for the event. Patil’s college in Indapur taluka was one of the seven winners.

Along with chief guest Governor K Sankaranarayanan, Patil handed over the first prize of the best college in rural area to his Indapur Taluka Shikshan Prasarak Mandal’s Arts, Science and Commerce College.

UoP’s Board of College and University Development (BCUD) Director Dr V B Gaikwad confirmed that Patil’s name was not there on the list.

“Possibly, after the principal of his college informed him about the institute was selected as the best college in rural area, Patil communicated to the varsity that he was attending the function. So rather than making his arrangement with the other dignitaries, we requested him to share the dais with other guests,” Gaikwad said.

The ‘famous five’
Besides Patil’s college, the other institutes with political links that won the award were Dr D Y Patil Pratishthan’s Padmashri Dr D Y Patil Institute of MCA, Pune Jilha Shikshan Mandal’s Annasaheb Magar College, Ahmadnagar Jilha Maratha Vidya Prasarak Samaj’s New Arts Commerce and Science College and Rajgad Gyanpeeth’s Sau Nirmalatai Thopte College of Education in Bhor.

The only two colleges that lacked any kind of political affiliation were Maharashtra Education Society’s Garware College of Commerce and MIT Academy of Engineering. Gaikwad said, “Since the ‘best college awards’ started in 2002, almost all reputed colleges in the city and rural areas have bagged the prize. That’s why new colleges are now applying for this award in large numbers.”

‘What’s the harm?’
The five-member experts committee appointed by the UoP to select colleges said it did not found anything objectionable about selecting institutes having political links.

Renowned author and senior educationist Nagnath Kotapalle, who headed the panel, said, “The committee has not found any reason to reject the colleges just because they belong to politicians. We have selected the colleges on the basis of the 10 criteria set down by the UoP for this award.”

However, Kotapalle could not recall the exact number of UoP affiliated colleges, over 600, which applied for this award.
“One of the criteria was that a college must have paid all the fees of the UoP. Many applications were rejected because the institutes had failed to pay their dues,” he added.

Senior educationist Vivek Velankar said, “Why did allow room for such doubts? Ideally, before announcing the ‘best college awards’, it should have declared the number of colleges that applied for them beforehand, and on what grounds these seven colleges won the prizes. Maintaining transparency while giving awards is expected from UoP.”

And the award goes to...

>> Best College (professional courses), urban sector
Dr DY Patil Pratishthan’s Padmashree
Dr DY Patil Institute of MCA, Akurdi won the second prize (the only award in this category). Belongs to Bihar governor
Dr DY Patil, a senior congress politician and an educationist

>> Best College (professional courses), rural sector
1) Maharashtra Academy of Engineering and Educational Research, MIT Academy of Engineering
2) Rajgad Gyanpeeth’s Sau Nirmalatai Thopte College of Education, Bhor. Belongs to senior politician and former minister Anantrao Thopte

>> Best College (non-professional category), urban sector
1) Maharashtra Education Society’s Garware College of Commerce
2) Pune Jilha Shikshan Mandal’s Annasaheb Magar College, Hadapsar. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar is the mandal’s chairperson

>> Best College (non-professional category), rural sector
1) Indapur Taluka Shikshan Prasarak Mandal’s Arts, Science and Commerce College, Indapur. Belongs to State Cooperative Minister Harshawardhan Patil
2) Ahmednagar Jilha Maratha Vidya Prasarak Samaj’s New Arts, Commerce and Science College, Parner, District Ahmednagar. Belongs to senior Congress leader Raosaheb Mhaske

Man behind the event
Dr Arun Nigwekar, UoP’s former Vice-Chancellor who started ‘best college awards’ in 2002, said, “While introducing these awards to motivate affiliated colleges, I took utmost care to maintain transparency. During my three-year tenure, no one asked me why a particular college was selected. Today, 95 per cent of the educational institutes belong to politicians. Cooperation Minister Harshawardhan Patil attending the function remains his personal decision. But in a situation like this, the V-C has no option but to follow the protocol.” 

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