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Fighting corruption at India's universities

Kidar Nath Bansal is no "ordinary man."

A local resident speaks behind the Indian national flag during a demonstration near the Oberoi Trident hotel in Mumbai, Dec. 12, 2008. (Jayanta Shaw/Reuters)

Photo Caption: A local resident speaks behind the Indian national flag during a demonstration near the Oberoi Trident hotel in Mumbai, Dec. 12, 2008. (Jayanta Shaw/Reuters)

NEW DELHI, India — On July 17 last year, Indians woke up to read that the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation had raided the powerful federal regulator of India’s engineering colleges.

A top official was accused of accepting $11,300 to give a college a good review. Corruption charges had also been filed against the regulatory body’s chairman after a search of his home uncovered documents of investments to the tune of $466,511 — a net worth far exceeding even a high-ranking government official’s salary such as his.

The news was electrifying.

Not because nobody knew about corruption at the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulator, but because many Indians had accepted it as a problem that would never go away.

Kidar Nath Bansal — an “ordinary man,” as he frequently calls himself — deserves the credit for bringing the AICTE to its knees.

The sole local newspaper article that lauds him for his efforts does say that while Bansal resisted as long as he could he eventually played ball — he had, after all, spent almost $180,000 on his campus and faculty — to get initial approval for his new engineering college. “Somehow I got it,” he said agitatedly and almost apologetically, when asked about it.

But when Bansal realized that this was just the beginning of a long series of payoffs, he drew a line in the sand. For more than a year he refused to pony up and met with higher officials in the AICTE to complain that its officials were harassing him for bribes to approve an increase in seats.

When that didn’t work, he surmised that the top officials were on the take as well, and approached the ministry in charge of higher education. After countless faxes requesting meetings with ministry bureaucrats, and wearing out shoe leather, finally, to Bansal’s great surprise, the ministry took action.

Although nearly every family in IT-happy India wants their child to become an engineer, there’s a huge gap between the number of students and quality institutions. This year, for instance, almost 500,000 students took the test for about 10,000 seats at the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/education/100520/india-education-engineering