Stop the misleading advertisements of IAS/UPSC Coaching institutes

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The Chief Justice Of India
Supreme Court

Subject--Misleading advertisements by the IAS/UPSC Coaching institutes

Jai Hind

I am a former soldier and have qualified for Civil Services Exam 2016 with an IPS rank through self study. These days i am facing a peculiar situation. Prior to my UPSC interview,I had attended a few mock interviews  at some Delhi based coaching institutes.

With the publication of the final result after the interview,these institutes have started publishing the photographs and names of the selected candidates (including me) without quoting honestly as to which course they took admission.

It is worth mentioning that while for mock interviews candidates are charged nominal/no fee as low as Rs. 500/-but when it comes to Preliminary or written mains exam full course,the charges are more than Rs. 1.30 lakh/- on average per student !

 When such results are published along with fresh advertisement for new batches,it creates confusions in the minds of new students who are lured by factually incorrect and misleading advertisements. They fall in trap by believing that the mentioned toppers are from that particular institute who have pursued the advertised courses while the truth remains that the exam has 3 stages---prelim,Mains and interview.

Even the Mains exam has  a total of 09 papers including an Optional subject(02 papers),General Studies(4 papers),Essay and languages(02 papers) thus the coaching institutes run a number of courses .The successful candidates may have joined only one of these or they  might simply have appeared in test series to have a feel of the exam and get a feedback. But due to veiled design of  advertisement,future aspirants never know the true facts.

Queries by student prior to admission are met with cold response as attendants at coaching are reluctant to reveal the exact and true information.Since IAS coaching providers enjoy huge demand for their courses so students are simply reprimanded by saying'' ADMISSION LENA HO TO LO WARNA HUM TO AISE BHI DEMAND PURI NAHI KAR PA RAHE HAI''!

Coming from a weaker economic background, i personally know some of the students who have to sell/mortgage their ancestral land/family silver or exhaust meagre parental savings in order to attend guidance at these costly coaching institutes.

The matter has become worse as the said institutes adopt zero tolerance when it comes to refund of the paid fees. Online window of admission at their websites work like Tatkal ticket system of Railways and all seats are booked within minutes due to heavy rush of students. Websites do not and never reveal correct information about courses attended by the toppers while using them only as  crowd drawing faces. 

Once admitted,when  students realize something amiss and fussy after becoming aware of the ground situation;they are rendered helpless and victims of fraud with no remedy available. Poors are the worst affected as their parents cannot afford a second fee.

I have seen a few students breaking down on stairs of the institute buildings after failure to get their money refunded with a fruitless run from clerk to the management. Some are even forced to do odd/part time jobs to collect a future fee for their desired coaching center. Their mental agony and harassment in an alien city away from home sometimes become heart rendering when they lie to parents about the cruel truth/fraud and try to conceal the pain within.

Even suicides are not uncommon when one finds little hope.  A student who is uncertain about how to pay rent to the landlord next month cannot be expected to put a costly and time-consuming legal fight. .

No grievance redress  mechanism is in place at present, either statutory or regulatory thus allowing a free rein to such practices.

A student from rural area who is coming to Delhi or State capital has literally no alternative but to rely on the information given by the coaching institutes. They have branches spread over the whole country and the game possibly is worth hundreds/thousands of crores rupees annually!

Their modus-operandi is simple;allow more people in mock and test series,do not publish/specify their correct course details with 'result' or 'congratulatory'  or 'felicitation' advertisements and then make vague yet bold claims of toppers being their students. It is done with a ulterior motive  so that future students can be lured for costly courses like 10/11 month long General Studies or 04 /05 Month long Optional subject course whose fees are nearly Rs.1.30 lakh and Rs.50,000-60,000 respectively by simply showing name,photographs or roll numbers of toppers.

It goes without saying that if a student is allowed to know the reality then he/she can make an informed/reasonable choice;but sadly this is not the case.Being private body,such institutes are already outside the ambit of Right To Information Act 2005 which ideally they should be as they discharge public duties by virtue of providing public goods like education or career guidance.

It seems a race to harvest the already ripe crop otherwise how it is possible that each coaching can claim that 100+ or 300+ successful candidates are theirs when the total selection in a given year is not more than 1000 on average. If an aspirant is made to beg for the mercy of the fraudulent advertisements then in a broader sense,the system which is allowing such impunity,needs reform.

I have a few suggestions which if implemented can bring desirable reforms,such as:--

1. Coaching institutes may be asked to compulsorily publish the name and photograph of selected candidates only with a below and visible heading of course(PT/Mains/Mock interviews/Test series/Optional) attended by them along with registration number and date for better clarity.

2. Students must be given a forum like Ombudsman to fight fraud if they came across the misleading advertisements/information after taking admission.

3. Erring institutes may face cancellation of registration and forfeiture of asset/bank account as deterrence

4. Websites must carry full details of successful candidates such as name of course/guidance programme in which he/she had enrolled,fee,duration and feedback submitted by candidates ; so that even at the remote state capitals/cities where advertisement is not published,students can readily check authenticity of information/claims.

5. For better transparency,such institutes may be brought within the definition of 'Public Authority' under the RTI act 2005.

If this practice is not checked which is the case since decades then it will continue causing irreparable damage to the career and savings of the students and parents. We live in a country where millions go hungry each night and children are compelled to abandon career dreams due to financial difficulties.

IAt best, on my particular complaint, a few institutes may remove my photo or name from their advertisements but it will not change the ground situation.What will happen to other candidate's names? and who will stop them from doing so the next year onward ?Only a systematic reform and not a particular complaint by a candidate can provide be an effective answer.

Commercialization of education has crossed the limits of greed and morality;with absence of regulations/guidelines further promoting the trend.

I humbly request you to turn this letter into a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and emerge as the saviour of student community. Parents who have high hopes from their wards in Civil Services Exam exams are also a stakeholder in this cause though they may not be aware of the magnitude of this problem. This is not the case of IAS only but that of practically every competitive exam coaching centres and places ranging from SSC,GATE,Banking,Railways,medical to CAT and from IIT hub Kota to IAS hub of Delhi.

I hope the problem which has become a menace will attract your kind attention. The whole student community will be benefited from such an initiatives and it will usher a new era of ethical teaching. Commercialization of education is what the mushrooming coaching institutes aim for. Regulation is the only option as students cannot be left at the good will/mercy of the coaching institutes which only you can provide.

Awaiting the rays of justice and hope,
On behalf of student community,

Yours Faithfully,
Vineet Kumar
Indian Air Force

Address:Room No 47 A,Gywer Hall Hostel
University of Delhi-110007

Former student:Hindu College,University of Delhi

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