Employees of the University of Mumbai were under the impression that the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Limited (MKCL), which is handling the university’s controversial ‘e-suvidha’ project, is a company floated by the government.
Rejecting an RTI application of educationist Hemang Tanna, the company has said that “MKCL is a public limited company, incorporated under The Companies Act, 1956. The company is not a “public authority” under the RTI Act 2005 and hence provisions of RTI are not applicable to it.”
The company website boasts that it is “promoted by the government’ and Higher and Technical Education Minister Rajesh Tope is the chairman. Tope said the government and universities have over 90% stake in the company. Vice chancellor Rajan Welukar along with some other VCs are members of the board of directors.
The firm’s website says its managing director Vivek Sawant and company secretary Komal Choubal are appellate authority and information officer pursuant to the RTI Act.
The University of Mumbai was first in the state to sign a tie-up with MKCL. The MoU doesn’t mention a deadline to handover the project and it has been lingering for seven years now with MU paying up to Rs3.41 crore besides providing hardware to the firm. Moreover, its glitch-riddled applications were an ordeal for 6.5 lakh students. The auditor general, in its March 2013 report, has pulled up the university over payment to the company without checking the deliverables.
Senator Sanjay Vairal said: “If the company is not a government agency, then why has it been allotted the project without following the due process?”
Welukar and Sawant didn’t respond to calls.
Tope hesitatingly said: “The MKCL is a private company registered under the Companies Act. But, it’s owned by the government.” When asked about the government’s share, Tope said it had more than 50% stake in the company along with 40% stakes by universities. Claiming himself as the firm’s “non-working” chairman, Tope added, “I don’t deal with the company’s day-to-day affairs.
But a whole book can be written on the good work of MKCL done across the state.”
On reminding him about the auditor general’s report, Tope said: “There could be just one or two things which the company didn’t deliver.”
On the consistent goof-ups in exams, Tope said: “I will seek clarification from them and ask them to improve.”
When reminded of the RTI application rejection, he said, “I don’t know why the company said they are not under RTI. You should ask Vivek Sawant about this.”
Pact with MKCL
The Mumbai university’s e-suvidha project was given to MKCL in November 2006 without any tender process. Reason: The state government issued a resolution on June 19, 2006, directing all non-agricultural universities to initiate computerisation with MKCL’s help.