Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The man who NAILED AICTE

How Kidar Bansal adamantly refused to bribe corrupt AICTE officials and faced torment for years before the wrongdoers were finally trapped by the CBI. An exclusive by Anil Pandey

It was a hot and humid morning on July 17, 2009 when Kidar Bansal was playing around with some files in his office. Within moments of picking up the ringing telephone, Bansal breaks into a broad smile and spreads his arms in a gesture of victory and vindication. The call was from a newspaper reporter who gave him delightful news: The CBI has raided the offices and homes of many top officials of AICTE. The CBI has arrested Member Secretary Narayan Rao and middleman S.B Subbarao; catching them red-handed taking bribes. The CBI has also registered an FIR against AICTE chairman R.A Yadav, Deputy Director Ravindra Randhawa, advisor S. C Rai and Regional Officer Om Dalal. Bansal, who runs the Echelon Institute of Technology in Faridabad, claims that it is these very men who have been tormenting him for years. His crime? Bansal refused to pay any bribes. Now vindicated, Bansal hopes that the CBI raids are just the beginning of the process to destroy and stamp out the hopelessly corrupt AICTE.

There are dozens like Bansal who had virtually given up hope. That is because they knew that R.A Yadav and his cronies enjoyed such political patronage that they could behave brazenly and get away with it. In fact, Bansal now recalls meeting even Rahul Gandhi and pleading with him to help stop AICTE officials using professional education as a personal milch cow. Bansal’s adamant refusal to pay bribes started bearing fruit when Kapil Sibal replaced Arjun Singh as Union Human Resources Development Minister. From day one, Sibal was determined to cleanse the rot. And he did sign a file on June 26, 2009 which enabled to trap the corrupt gang at AICTE.

The story of Bansal and his encounters with AICTE is both fascinating and sickening. Fascinating because it shows how some intrepid warriors will never succumb to the ‘system’. And sickening because of the extent to which AICTE officials tormented and harassed him for years in a brazen manner. Bansal launched the Echelon Institute of Technology in 2006 and sought approval to run engineering courses. “As per rules of AICTE, I had enough resources & infrastructure to run an engineering college.” From November 2006 to May 2007, AICTE kept rejecting his request. He literally pleaded with Om Dalal and Ravindra Randhawa (against whom CBI has now registered a case). All along, ‘agents’ kept trying to persuade him to cough up the “lubrication money”. But Bansal was adamant.

But corrupt babus who are thwarted have long memories. As per AICTE rules, an engineering college has to renew approvals every year and also needs an approval to increase the number of seats. When Bansal applied for necessary approval, officials tried to procrastinate the matter. “AICTE used to respond weeks after the date written on the envelope of the letter. On the other hand middlemen kept demanding bribes.” They were demanding Rs.15 lakh at the rate of Rs.25,000 for 60 seats.

The second session (2008-09) was about to start and Bansal was still rubbing his heels in the AICTE corridors. Neither did his college got renewal nor were the number of seats increased. He registered his complaint with special Secretary in MHRD M. K. Acharya and then with Additional Secretary Ashok Thakur. On 10 July, 2008 he got a renewal approval but number of seats were not increased. Bansal met with Secretary R. P. Agrawal in MHRD. A concerned & upset Agrawal ordered Thakur to look into the matter.

On 8 0August, 2008 Ashok Thakur held a meeting with R. A. Yadav and Kidar Bansal. In the meeting R. A. Yadav leveled allegations of irregularity on his college but these fizzled out like moist bombs after Bansal put up his case strongly. Recalling the incident Kidar Bansal tells B&E, “Yadav received a phone call during the meeting and after his talk finished, he told me the approval letter is ready.” Kidar Bansal smiles, gives a pause and says further, “The letter was prepared two days ago. This means Yadav had issued me a backdated letter to save his skin.” Sources in the ministry confirm that Ashok Thakur found Kidar Bansal’s allegations quite convincing and true. He even ordered for major penalties to be imposed on Regional officer Om Dalal and Advisor S C Rai. But no action was taken against them.

Though Kidar won the battle, the war was still incomplete. Renewal approval for the next year session (2009-10) was again denied on frivolous grounds. He met R. A. Yadav, but AICTE raided his engineering college instead. Then he complained to the CVC and even met Rahul Gandhi to apprise him of the situation.

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