SRINAGAR: In August 2014 Abdal Career Counseling Cell in collaboration with MVN, a Haryana based private university, conducted national level talent quest at Kashmir University. Hundreds of boys and girls across Kashmir valley took part in the test.
A month later toppers of the test were called to attend a mega function held at conference hall of Kashmir University and were rewarded with cash prizes worth thousands of rupees, trophies and medals.
Among the toppers was 15-year-old girl Touseefa (name changed) from Srinagar who was awarded Rs 5,000 along-with a trophy and a medal. Touseefa was in XII standard and ambitiously wanted to pursue medical course. After passing her clas XII examination, she studied hard with an aim to secure her seat at Government Medical College (GMC) in Srinagar.
A few months later her result was out. She failed to crack the entrance test. Here is when Abdal Career Counseling Cell made a comeback. The consultancy had already told the girl’s family that if she missed to crack the examination, they would help her admission in some private medical college in the state or outside.
“We approached Abdal and they demanded Rs 60 lakh with assurance that our daughter would be enrolled at Batra Medical College in Jammu on a payment seat,” Touseefa’s father Altaf Hussain told Kashmir Reader. After bargaining, the deal was fixed at Rs 23 lakh, he said.
Hussain sold his wife’s jewelry to pay the first installment of Rs 10 lakh. They paid Rs 5 lakh in cash at Abdal’s office at Bagat-Barzulla to the owner of the consultancy Saba Shafi. “When the admission process at Batra was approaching we were asked to submit another payment of Rs 5 lakh but we were able to pay Rs 3 lakh,” he said adding that it took them another one month to arrange Rs 2 lakh more
After depositing the advance amount, Hussain was asked to leave for Jammu to submit the documents. He said that the ploy was nothing more than hastening the process to gobble up money.
“The day we reached Jammu, consultancy asked for more payment and we paid them another Rs 5 lakh at hotel Fortune where we were staying. Two days later when we went to Batra Medical College, we were shocked to see that the name of our daughter was not in the selection list,” Hussain told Kashmir Reader.
Saba, according to Hussain and his spouse, was not surprised to see the selection list as she had done nothing except taking money from them. “She was playing a game that hardly anyone could have understood. She made us prepare a demand draft of Rs 1 lakh in the name Batra Medical College. Her secret was out once we spoke to college authorities when they said that Abdal had not approached them for any private admission and it could be a fraud case,” Hussian’s wife said.
Hussain said after Saba got exposed, she told them that she would arrange the admission of their daughter in a Bangalore college. “We gave her a chance but she did the same thing,” Hussain said.
The fraud admissions by consultancies in Kashmir are not new. The phenomenon is rampant and is running under the nose of police and other agencies.
Ashfaq Zehgeer, a career consultant, said the people are being cheated because there is no body overseeing the functioning of career counseling cells. He said that several consultancy owners contacted Divisional Commissioner, Labour Commission and Deputy Commissioner Srinagar regarding the issue but none of them showed interest in regulating more than 100 consultancies across the Valley.
Zahgeer said that regulating consultancies will at least reduce,the chances of cheating.
He added that government should regulate consultancies in a similar manner like private tour and travel agencies. “Private tour and travel agencies are owned by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department, let education department own us…It will surely reduce cheating up to large extent,” Zahgeer said.
Zahgeer said several cases have been registered against several consultancy cells in various police stations including Khanyar, Sadar and Amira Kadal.
The officials at Khanyar, Sadar and Amira Kadal police stations refused to divulge details on cases regarding fraud admissions.
In Touseefa’s case, the family claimed, one of the officials in Sadar police station suggested them to solve the dispute within their own capacity.
The family approached the Mohalla-Committee in the locality where Saba lives. When she was summoned by the local committee, she promised to refund the entire amount and even gave an undertaking. “She (Saba) gave us three cheques worth Rs 5 lakh each but they bounced because the bank account was empty,” Hussain said. The family filed a check-bounce case against her, which is being heard in the lower court.
Interestingly, to prolong the court trial, Saba filed a counter-suit against the family claiming they stole her cheques.
Hussain said Saba is not appearing before the court and has violated court order several times deliberately skipping court trial. “We have been pleading that the court must order the police to force her presence so that we could get justice,” he said.
Education Minister Altaf Bukhari told Kashmir Reader that he will look into the matter and take necessary action.
(Some names in the story have been changed on request)