Patel vs. Patel is one strand of stir

The main complaint of many protesters is that they are unable to get seats in government-run medical and engineering colleges because 49 per cent of these are reserved.

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:25 pm IST

Published - September 01, 2015 02:15 am IST - AHMEDABAD:

The Patel community’s frustration at being denied seats in medical and engineering colleges in Gujarat reveals a strand of the ongoing agitation that is not just against the BJP or the State government but also against the established leadership of their own community.

The main complaint of many protesters is that they are unable to get seats in government-run medical and engineering colleges because 49 per cent of these are reserved. On top of that, they cannot afford the exorbitant fees charged by private self-financing colleges, many of which are owned by Patel businessmen.

For example, Ganpat University in Mehsana district is owned by former BJP Minister Anil Patel and his family, while a number of educational institutes in Kalol are owned by former BJP Union Minister A.K. Patel and his family. Other private universities owned by the Patel community are Nirma University in Ahmedabad, D.D. Desai University in Nadiad, Charusat University in Anand and Navrachna university in Vadodara.

According to insiders in the Gujarat unit of the BJP, more than two dozen leaders from the Patel community in the party, even MLAs and MPs, run schools, colleges and private universities. Vasant Gajera, a diamond and realty baron from Surat whose family has been associated with the BJP for several years, runs a string of educational institutes in Surat and Amreli.

For the Patel community, admission to professional courses is now essential not only to better their chances of getting a job in an increasingly shrinking job market in Gujarat but also to give them a better chance of moving abroad.

“My son studies in Australia because he did not get admission in LD Engineering College [government-run college]; so we decided to send him abroad instead of to any self-financing college here,” said Pragajibhai Patel, a 53-year-old farmer, who came to attend the mega rally in Ahmedabad on August 25, from Rajkot district.

The large-scale privatisation of education is one of the policies closely associated with the Narendra Modi regime in Gujarat and is another example of how the much-vaunted Gujarat model has failed certain key sections.

Private college owners say they have little choice. “Education has become expensive because the government has pushed the private sector, which led to the opening of more self-financing colleges in the State,” said a BJP leader, who runs a school and several colleges in Ahmedabad.

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