Srinagar: Students at the SSM College of Engineering and Technology, here in Parihaspora, have alleged that the college authorities are demanding transport “maintenance” charges from them for the Covid-19 lockdown period, without operating any buses. The college administration maintains that the fee is being charged to pay the drivers of the buses.
Several students of different semesters pursuing Bachelor’s in Engineering in various streams told Kashmir Reader that the college authorities had charged each of them Rs 500 a month as ‘Transport Maintenance Charges’ from March this year till date, even though the administration did not operate any transport in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They said the maintenance fee was being charged from them despite each of them having already paid Rs 10,000 under the same head.
The fee is being charged by the college administration under AICTE guidelines allowing institutions to charge only maintenance fee of mess and transport.
The said AICTE directive issued on September 3 has allowed institutions to charge the said maintenance charges. The directive was issued following complaints by students and their parents that the institutions were charging hostel and transport fee for the Covid-19 lockdown period without providing the facilities.
Students at SSM College said that though the AICTE had allowed the institutions to charge mess and transport maintenance charges for the lockdown period, but it had not specified any amount for the same.
The Rs 500 a month charged by the SSM College on each student is “arbitrary and unjustified”, they say.
“There are hundreds of us paying the transport fee. Even if they charge only Rs 100 a month per head, it will be sufficient to pay the drivers, but charging Rs 500 a month from each of us amounts to crores of rupees, which is disproportionate,” an aggrieved student said.
“Why should we pay even the maintenance charges when we did not avail the bus facility even once all these months? It is the headache of the administration to pay the drivers,” suggested another student.
But, in a common message shot to the students, the college administration has termed it “magnanimity” on its part for having settled at Rs 500 transport maintenance fee.
“Ninety percent students are getting scholarships from different government schemes. The Rs 45,000 is lowest fee our college is charging for Engineering course per annum – again magnanimity of management taking fee in small installments,” reads the purported message.
The students further alleged that besides the transport maintenance charges, the SSM College administration has been charging “unjustified” amount of Rs 1,700 for merely clearing an NOC in every semester of their degree.
Besides, the college administration also does not entertain the students’ pleas to collect the semester fee in installments in view of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
Principal of SSM College of Engineering and Technology, Dr Sajad Ahmad, said that the transport maintenance fee was being charged under AICTE guidelines to pay the drivers their salaries.
As for the students’ complaints regarding Rs 1,700 for NOC charges every semester, Dr Sajad said that the amount was being “compounded with the registration fee” in line with directions issued by the Kashmir University.
Asked about the students’ demand to pay the semester fee in installments, Dr Sajad said that they have entertained such requests from “only deserving students”.