Hyderabad: Mohammed Shujat Ali, 27, had dreams like lakhs of people to complete his engineering degree and then eventually move abroad. However, However, his world turned upside down when his father had to undergo heart surgery and he had to drop out of his college to support his family.
The young man from Hyderabad wanted to pursue a different stream of education later but today he can’t as his college has kept his past educational certifications (matriculation and intermediate). Mohammed Shujat Ali now works in amazon customer support to support his family. His hair has even turned grey at the young age of 27 from the mental anguish that his former college caused him by illegally withholding his certifications.
He joined Lord’s Institute of Engineering in 2015. “The college is demanding me to pay 1.5 lakh rupees to return the original documents and I cannot possibly pay that much money,” Shujat told Siasat.com He further stated that seven years of his life have been wasted as he cannot get admission anywhere else without the certificates, apply for a decent job or travel abroad.
Shujat claimed that the college even asked him to go and file a false FIR to get duplicate copies of his originals. “However, my father does not approve of breaking the law. My sister who lives in Saudi Arabia was sick and I asked the college for a custodian certificate and they even refused to give that,” he narrated with tears in his eyes.
According to a 2018 notification by the University Grants Commission (UGC), universities and colleges cannot retain the original documents of a student in any case. The notification also states that if a student withdraws from the program, the institution has to refund the fees.
However, almost all private institutions in Hyderabad ignore this notification and carry on with what the UGC described as “coercive and profiteering institutional practices.”
The practice has continued to ruin the lives of students with some falling victim to severe mental anguish and depression. Few students even told Siasat.com that they had suicidal thoughts because of this issue, as their lives have come to a halt.
Another student whose dreams have been crushed by his college is Mohd Sultan, who studied at Shadan College of Engineering and Technology. He joined the college in 2018 and had to discontinue in a year as his grandfather who was supporting him financially had passed away.
“The reason for me dropping out was being unable to afford the fees and now they are demanding that I pay them 1.2 lakhs to get back my original documents,” Sultan stated. With no hope of a successful career, the 23-year-old now works as a Zomato as a delivery boy.
Raheem (name changed), was a student of Muffakham Jah College of Engineering and Technology, who joined in 2016 and discontinued in 2017 when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“Throughout my school life, I was told that I would do great things in life, but now I am jobless, drowned in debt, and unable to support my family, my existence has been reduced to an embarrassment, I have stopped meeting people” he added. Raheem has been asked to pay half of the remaining fees of the course he dropped out of, which is 1.25 lakh, an amount he cannot afford.
A leaked video has also been doing rounds on the internet of what students are claiming to be the administration cell of Muffakham Jah College, Banjara Hills.
These are just a few of the many distressing stories of countless students whose lives have been adversely affected by the illegal practice in Hyderabad.
Some of the affected students however have decided to fight back. Muhammed Haris, who joined M.J.C.E.T. in 2017, said that he quit in 2019 as he decided that engineering was not for him and wanted to make a career in sports.
“I had already paid two years’ fees but when I wanted to discontinue, the college demanded the full payment of the course to return my originals,” Haris told Siasat.com. “I requested them many times to return my certificates but they were very rude, disrespectful, and hell-bent on demanding money.”
Haris informed the college that it is against the law to take the original certificates of any student during the time of admission, let alone confiscate it, but the college brushed off his warning. “I spoke to my father regarding this and he told me we will write a letter to UGC regarding this. We wrote to UGC but nothing happened. Then we wrote to All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE) about this issue.”
The matter was taken up legally and went on for a few months. M.J.C.E.T. allegedly sent Haris a letter during the ongoing legal issue stating that he never approached the college to ask for his documents and that the student never informed the college about discontinuing the course.
“That was obviously a lie, a few weeks later I received a letter from the college, it was a call from the admission cell to kindly come to the campus to collect his original certificates,” Haris narrated. He added that he later got a call from AICTE asking him if he had gotten his certificates back.
A high court Advocate P. Sunil Kumar told Siasat.com that the students whose certificates have been confiscated by colleges can fight a legal battle, not only to have their certificates returned but can also to make the colleges pay them if they claim damages after issuing a legal notice. However, the student must prove how much the confiscation has cost them.
When Siasat.com visited the office of AICTE in Ameerpet, however, he ȧs told that the office has been shifted to New Delhi. A media inquiry e-mail has been sent to know what the AICTE is doing to curb this illegal practice by private colleges. The story will be updated accordingly.