FFC probe exposes APU’s web of lies

[ Amar Sangno ]
ITANAGAR, Aug 10: The fact-finding committee (FFC) that probed the alleged discrepancies in the Apex Professional University (APU) in Pasighat has exposed the university’s willful intention to lure students by offering misleading information about infrastructure below the standards of a university.
The 11-member FFC, led by Pasighat ADC Tatdo Borang, was constituted by the East Siang deputy commissioner on 23 July, on the basis of complaints lodged by the Adi Students’ Union (AdiSU). The committee had sought information on 17 points from the APU, along with documentary evidence, latest by 27 July.
In its observation on the shortcomings of the APU, the committee pointed out that since the establishment of the university, inspection by the University Grant Commission (UGC) expert committee still is due because the APU had deliberately communicated inadequate and incomplete information to the UGC.
“The APU has posted the remark, ‘Additional information called for inspection purpose from the university, still awaited.’ Such an act on the part of the APU seems to be deliberate and willful with intent to evade the inspection of the university as long as possible,” the committee observed.
It further stated that the information furnished by the APU on it “is grossly inadequate, ambiguous and is without the relevant annexure under many heads.”
The committee said such negligence on the part of the university cast aspersions on the actual objectives of the APU authorities to open a university in Arunachal Pradesh. “Under the circumstances, an early inspection of APU by UGC is of prime necessity,” the FFC observed.
The committee also observed that the APU has violated the Arunachal Pradesh Colleges and Other Institutions of Higher Education (Establishment and Regulations) Act, 2010, “as the endowment fund of non-government institution should be deposited in a separate joint account of the management and the secretary education in a nationalized bank. The APU deposited endowment fund with the Punjab National Bank, Amritsar Cantt branch, FD account number 339500GQ00000019, violating the DHTE letter directing them to deposit the endowment fund of Rs 3 crore in a nationalized bank within the state.”
It was evident, it said, that the endowment fund was withdrawn from the said account on demand, and was executed in a clandestine manner in connivance with bank officials, which is a blatant violation of the APU Act, 2012.
“The balance was nil on 16 July, 2018, as per the evidence submitted by the AdiSU. Surprisingly, after the formation of the FFC, the float balance was Rs 3 crore in the same account, indicating the withdrawal of money.”
On the programme and courses being offered by the university, the FFC stated that though the university is offering only a few courses at present, there is the mention of innumerable courses in the prospectus of the university, “which the committee finds to be quite misleading for students.”
It said the committee is of the impression that the APU is using the current prospectus as a common prospectus for all courses offered even outside the state.
“A high level investigation into the matter is urgently required,” the committee said.
The report also reflected the conflicting reports of the university on the strength of course-wise faculty members. It said while one list indicates 22 faculty positions, the other reflects 48 positions.
The committee also concluded that the lease agreement between the UD department and the APU for 30 years “is a deterrent to the new construction of building at 5 Mile Pasighat, the permanent site of APU.”
It said a longer period of agreement with the APU may dissuade the university from shifting to its permanent site, and recommended revocation of the 30-year lease agreement and preparing a fresh agreement for not more than three years.
Though the university claimed that it incurred an expense of Rs 50 lakhs in procuring equipment, computers, furniture, and other immovable assets and infrastructure facilities, including library books and scientific journals, the committee has contradicted the university’s claims. It said that during their inspection of the library and the science laboratories of the university on 24 July, it was observed that the library was poorly kept and the science laboratories were ill-equipped by the standards of a university.
It remarked that inspection by the expert committee from the UGC “would be decisive over the infrastructure.”
The committee also cast apprehension that, as per documentary evidence submitted by the AdiSU, the APU authority is running off-campus institutes across India, including in Punjab, Andra Pradesh and Maharastra, “which is blatant violation of the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulation, 2003.”
However, the committee said it could not verify it with documents, and that a state level inquiry committee may be required to do so.
It expressed concern that despite the intervention from higher levels, including the then governor of Arunachal Pradesh Nirbhay Sharma, emphasizing on evolving a strict regulatory mechanism and monitoring of adherence to the laid down standards in private universities, things have not improved.
In its recommendation the committee asked the APU to come clean on the accusations made, freshly apply for inspection by the UGC expert committee within one month, and get the inspection process completed within a year.
It said that in the meantime the APU may be allowed to function as usual “and students may be asked to submit their queries, questions and complaints regarding the functioning of the university.”
The committee also suggested setting a deadline for the university to shift to the permanent site in three years, and warned that if new construction at the permanent site does not start immediately, new admissions in the university for the 2019-20 academic session would be stopped.
It also asked the university to submit information in writing about the composition of the trust (including the names of stakeholders) that is running the university, in order to maintain transparency.
The committee further suggested that the education secretary may constitute a committee under Section 62 of the APU Act, 2012, to look into the grievances of the students and the public about the university, including allegation of the APU running affiliated schools and colleges outside the state, somewhere in Punjab.