Published: 29th August 2019
Should students pay for internet on campus? Mumbai Uni serves show-cause notice to Jai Hind College over Wi-Fi fees
The college principal has claimed that it was an optional service provided to the students as they wanted it. Whoever could not avail the services was given a refund
The University of Mumbai (MU) issued a show-cause notice to the principal of Jai Hind College, Churchgate, earlier this month for charging "excess" fees from students for providing Wi-Fi anbd internet services on campus.
Several news reports have stated, citing the show-cause notice that an inquiry conducted by a varsity committee found credence in a complaint filed about five years ago that said the Jai Hind College had collected an amount of Rs 1,000 from students as ‘Wi-Fi charges’ during a period of three years spanning from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
Ashok Wadia, the college principal, however, has claimed that it was an optional service provided to the students as they wanted it and that there are records of students voluntarily paying for the service. "It was an initiative taken by the college management, solely on the demand of the students. We have receipts of voluntary contribution, as well as proof of bills to show that Jai Hind College is run by a charitable trust. All particulars are documented and audited. No students were forced to pay for it. In fact, those who paid the fees without realising, were later refunded," the principal told the Indian Express.
According to a MHRD notification in January 2018 regarding the provision of Wi-Fi in campuses of higher educational institutions, the Centre had asked all college and universities to offer free Wi-Fi to their students and staff. In thew notification addressed to the vice-chancellors and heads of all higher educational institutions in the country, the HRD ministry clearly stated that they should contact telecom service providers who are willing to provide internet services for free. The creation of digital campus would require a large national effort involving both private and public players. Some telecom service providers have already evinced interest in participating in this effort," said the official MHRD document.
It should also noted that the ministry stated that no financial implications should be brought up on the institutions or the students. "It is expected that the facility is to be provided by telecom service and internet service providers at their own cost. There shall be no financial implications to the institution," said the document. It also added that the telecom service providers who are managing the Wi-Fi services should set it up in a way so that it meets the "optimal coverage and adequate capacity to serve the data download requirements of the students, teaching and non-teaching staff at the campus."
MU has now directed the college to explain why the university should not take action against it under Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act, 1987. "There is reasonable ground in the accusation by the complaint. No college shall charge in any form fees higher than fees prescribed by the university," read a part of the report cited in the notice, according to the Hindustan Times. The panel also recommended that MU may take "appropriate decision against the college and [its] management." The Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena, the student wing of the MNS, had filed a complaint with the varsity, alleging it to be capitation fee.