During 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was a great shortage of trained Engineers in India. The basic reason for this shortage was paucity of engineering seats available in the colleges, with number of colleges themselves so small that they could be counted by the fingers of the hand. There were only 3 engineering colleges in western Maharashtra and total number of seats available were well below a thousand. Government of Maharashtra decided to allow opening of private engineering colleges in early 1980’s, so that more number of trained engineers would be available in due course of time. A few pioneers, who also had political backing decided to open new private engineering colleges. Prof. Vishwanath Karad, a mechanical engineer of 1958 batch, from College of Engineering Pune was one of them. In 1983, he set up an educational institution, which he called as Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT).
Funds were no problem for the new institution as it was allowed to charge astronomical amounts (known as donation) as admission fees. However credit must be given to Prof. Karad that his rare entrepreneurial skills, political connections and vision saw MIT grow into a huge conglomerate over next thirty five years, imparting not only engineering education but also that in many other field such as Management, arts, commerce, science, Pharmacy, Law and journalism.
MIT also decided in 1990’s to expand in early school education area and set up residential and boarding schools that are known as ‘Vishwashanti Gurukul Schools’. Today they have six school campuses in different town of Maharashtra under control of Ms. Suchitra Karad-Nagare, executive director and trustee. Their school campus in Pune has recently been caught up in a whirlpool of controversy, when it published a school diary on 3rd June 2018, as is the practice in many schools. Prima facie, there is nothing wrong in it as it keeps the students and parents informed about school activities.
However, some of the rules that the diary prescribed for the students can be described as nothing but short of irritating to put in a milder way; or ridiculous to put it more strongly. One of the rules says.
“The students are strictly advised to use urinals and toilets in specific time allotted in the time-table. In case of emergency and medical grounds, the students should take permission from their respective teacher and proceed to the toilet with a buddy.”
The most ridiculous rule from the diary is about the colour of the innerwear, the girl students should wear in school. The diary specifies that all girl students shall wear at school only “white or beige inner-wears” under their bloomers every day. Another rule specifies the length of the skirt the girls must wear.
The school also insisted that parents should sign and return a written affidavit that their ward would strictly obey the rules set. When the diary reached the hands of the parents, many of them were peeved and angry. Some called the rules, “coercive and unnecessary”, and approached the Education department and sought action against the school administration. Karad-Nagare justifies the inclusion of the rules in the diary and explains the rationale behind them. She says.
“In past, we had some girls coming to us and complaining about such unpleasant experiences. To prevent such incidents, we decided to include rules about inner wears in the diary,” She adds further.
“We had very clear intentions behind issuing the rules. The safety and security of students is out top priority. It seems some parents were uncomfortable with the language used to frame the rules. We would give it a thought and ensure that we don’t hurt anyone’s sentiments.”
Seeing a great political opportunity in this episode, Pune’s political, leaders have jumped on the bandwagon. With so much pressure coming on school management, they seemed to have caved in and say now. “We will be conducting a parent-teacher meeting soon and based on the suggestions from all stakeholders, we will decide on a future course of action.”
However, not all parents are convinced. They say. “It is only temporarily withdrawn. But why the management should worry about colours of inner wear none is going to see except the individual . Don’t they have better things to do?”
6th July 2018.