AICTE head faces salary questions

AICTE head faces salary questions

The head of the All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE, a controversial regulator of engineering and business schools in India whose inspectors are frequently accused of corruption by many educators, is facing questions over his own dual compensation.

Acting on the basis of an unsigned complaint, the chief vigilance officer of the ministry of human resource development (HRD) has confirmed to Mint that it has asked AICTE to respond to the charge that the body’s acting chairman, Ram Avatar Yadav, who is also its vice-chairman, has been claiming a monthly basic salary from AICTE even as he is also drawing a monthly pension from Delhi University.

On the face of it, such dual compensations are not allowed under Indian government employee rules and puts under the microscope, practices at a regulator that is supposed to ensure high standards of educational integrity across thousands of academic institutes.

While the amounts involved are relatively small, the inquiry comes at a time when Yadav is actively lobbying to be made chairman of AICTE and the HRD ministry appears to be close to naming him as head of a body that has been at the receiving end of many complaints of rampant corruption as well as political favouritism in approving or stalling approvals for private institutions, especially during the time Yadav has been at the helm as vice-chairman.

Read: The letter that pointed out the violation.

The latest inquiry stems from an 18 September letter, which points out that Yadav, who draws a basic salary of Rs22,400 a month (in addition to other perks) from AICTE, is also drawing a Rs14,000 monthly pension from Delhi University, from where he took voluntary retirement from a teaching post at the Faculty of Management Studies in 2004. The complaint letter was unsigned but said it was from “an eminent professor from (a) management institute in Maharashtra."

“Anonymous complaints are not usually entertained but, as this concerned verifiable facts, comments have been sought from the AICTE," said Sunil Kumar, chief vigilance officer and joint secretary, ministry of human resource development.

Mint has also ascertained that a related file within AICTE, started by the financial officer of the body, concerning the alleged double payments, is currently with Yadav’s office and there are efforts underway to promise that he would pay back the excess amount.

It is unclear how restitution alone would close the matter if it is concluded that laws governing such compensation were violated.

Mint was able to independently ascertain Yadav’s Delhi University Pension Number as 01190205198.

Yadav didn’t respond to a telephone request made through his office as well as a 7 December email seeking an interview to address the personal allegations against him.

Reached on his mobile phone on Sunday, Yadav first said he was ready to answer all allegations but was currently busy and that he would be ready “in 15 minutes." Yadav then didn’t answer several calls from Mint after that.

The complaint letter that triggered the inquiry was addressed to Arjun Singh, minister for human resource development, as well as AICTE and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office. On Sunday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) said he didn’t know about the letter. It is unclear if the PMO has sought to investigate the issue.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the HRD ministry said he could not confirm or deny Yadav’s imminent appointment as chairman of AICTE, noting that such an appointment will be enventually made by the appointments commitee of the Union cabinet.

A vigilance department clearance would also be routinely required ahead of such appointments being confirmed.

Under current laws, if a retired government servant was to take up a government of India assignment, that person has to disclose pension details to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). This amount is deducted from the salary the retired officer would draw from his new asignment.

“Such people keep drawing their pension but are paid only the difference between the salary earmarked for the posting and the monthly pension that they draw," said an officer with DoPT on condition of anonymity. The appointees are, however, entitled to all other perks such as car and accomodation that come with the new office. Autonomous bodies generally follow government of India rules on the matter, this officer said.

Late on Sunday, Mint couldn’t independently ascertain whether AICTE, which is funded by the government in addition to raising fees from the institutes it regulates, was aware of the pension issue prior to the 18 September complaint.

AICTE, a relatively low-key organization until Yadav was named vice-chairman, shot into the limelight in 2005 when it withdrew permission granted to the Amity Business School to offer a course in management. Yadav had personally led the AICTE skirmish with Amity, the school told Mint in a recent conversation.

Battles between AICTE and the 6,000 private colleges it regulates in India have escalated since then with several colleges alleging that senior officials of the body, especially regional officers and inspectors, demand bribes in return for approving any increase in seats or courses, or renewing various annual permits.

In a 2 November article in Mint, AICTE member secretary K. Narayana Rao, who is widely credited with trying to clean up the organization since being named to that post less than a year ago, conceded there are corruption complaints against the body.

“Let us be frank on this issue," he told Mint. “We can’t say that 100% we are genuine." Rao also said he is trying to reform the approval process for private colleges, which is seen as the main source of alleged corruption at AICTE.

(K.P. Narayana Kumar and Pragya Singh contributed to this story.)