Aspirants from northeast ready to cough up any amount, say ‘admission consultants’ in city

It is easy to assume that Dhanbor Bora belongs to the city, because he claims to know ‘how everything works here’ and speaks in relatively understandable Tamil. An Assamese businessman who is also into real estate back in Guwahati, he spends June, July and August in Chennai and calls himself an ‘admission consultant’. He has printed flyers that read: “Want to study medicine or engineering? The best colleges are waiting for you. Limited seats only.”

Bora plays broker to aspirants from eastern India who come to the State for higher education. He takes care of the whole of the eastern region, he claims.

“The craze for engineering has only begun there. Parents from Assam are usually desperate to secure a seat for their ward and pay without a question,” says the ‘admission consultant’ who started out as a seat broker four years ago.

Ashish and Rajeev Singh, brothers who run Singh Consultants in T. Nagar, are luckier, because they operate from Lucknow that has more engineering aspirants, and ‘fix admissions’ here. “We started with Karnataka but slowly moved to Chennai. There is more scope here as more people want to come here,” says Ashish Singh.

The brokers exploit various advertising media to canvas outside counselling and entrance test venues.

And then begins the negotiations. “Parents or students call us and we make a deal,” says Bora. The preferred destinations are the same every year. For engineering, it is Tamil Nadu (Chennai and Coimbatore), Karnataka (Bangalore, Tumkur and Manipal), Maharashtra (Nagpur and Pune), Orissa, and Sikkim (Sikkim Manipal University). The capitation fee varies depending on the State, cut-off marks, and the broker too.

Students from the south pay the least, followed by those from U.P., Bihar and Jharkhand. Aspirants from the north-eastern States cough up the maximum amount, they say.

So do these students and parents get to meet the college principal as part of the deal? “The principal is in no way related to this. We know some people in the administration and are able to arrange admissions,” says a broker in the city.

Though they claim to charge Rs. 15,000 per seat as brokerage fee, students say it is much more than that, and sometimes crosses Rs. 1 lakh when the season peaks.

“It used to be profitable in the past when there were fewer engineering colleges across the States. Now, a lot of us have shifted to medical colleges, because there is more commission to make, as the seats fetch anything between Rs. 40 lakh and Rs. 64 lakh each,” says Bora.

This year, business was pretty good, say brokers. “The last seats went for Rs. 5 lakh last year. This year, it has started on that note,” says a broker, who handles admissions, exclusively to deemed universities.

There are specialised brokers too. S.B. Murthy, a consultant in Nungambakkam, arranges admissions only for courses in catering. “The demand is less, but there is no competition at all.” He also spends a week on marine engineering admissions.

An SRM University official said complaints had been received from a few parents last year on how they were cheated by some students of the university posing as brokers.

“We caution parents and students against falling for such practices,” he said. To avoid such parallel admission procedures, Hindustan University has made it compulsory for parents and students to be present during all admission procedures.

“The brokers make you wait for many days and then claim that the seats have been filled. We have little choice as there aren’t many seats back home. At least, here, the admission is guaranteed,” says a parent from Bihar, who admitted his son to a deemed university, last year, after paying a donation of Rs. 9 Lakh.

“The broker said the college had a 300 per cent placement record, that is, every student gets three job offers. What more do I want?”