Mumbai: Premier engineering institute VJTI facing infra, governance woes

The interiors wear a run-down look, with broken roofs and rusty windows and frames. The furnishing in the labs looks old. According to the HoD, there are five hostels in all, with one more being constructed for postgraduate students.

Aishwarya IyerUpdated: Monday, September 26, 2022, 12:24 PM IST
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Mumbai: Premier engineering institute VJTI facing infra, governance woes | FPJ/Aishwarya Iyer

The state-funded Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI, formerly the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute), founded in 1887 and among Asia’s oldest engineering colleges, is currently struggling to cope with inadequate infrastructure and poor governance.

The premier institute, which is often called upon to audit structures across the city, is itself in a state of disrepair, according to a letter sent recently by the Maharashtra Union of Secular Teachers (MUST) to Higher and Technical Education Minister Chandrakant Patil.

“Decisions have been pending for over three years as there is no governing body in the institute,” Dr Vijay N Pawar, founder-president of MUST, told The Free Press Journal. “VJTI has not had a board of governors since Feb 2020. In the absence of the board, several important decisions are pending and there is no control over the administration.” A VJTI head of department (HoD) told The Journal that the interiors of the buildings on the campus are in serious need of repair.

“The buildings had infrastructural audits recently which stated that they are safe,” the HoD said. “But the point is, what quality are we providing our kids? There is barely any new equipment in the laboratories, no major amenities, and a shabby state of affairs altogether.”

The interiors wear a run-down look, with broken roofs and rusty windows and frames. The furnishing in the labs looks old. According to the HoD, there are five hostels in all, with one more being constructed for postgraduate students.

“For the past two years, the admission rate for PG students is on the decline,” the HoD said. “Students usually come from outside Mumbai, so if they don’t have hostel provisions, they cancel their applications.”

At present, VJTI offers diplomas, graduation degrees, post-graduation and M-Tech courses while catering to 5,000-plus students. “There have been no new blocks, no new buildings in recent years,” the HoD said. “A premier institute like VJTI preferred by engineering students in Maharashtra is losing its charm and legacy to negligence.”

According to Dr Pawar, staff recruitment at VJTI last took place in 2015. With existing staff retiring as the years go by, there is a growing shortage of personnel. “There are 240 sanctioned posts of which 140 are appointed on a contractual basis,” he said.

“There is a limitation in faculty which impacts academics.” Dr Pawar said he met the Higher and Technical Minister but the meeting was not fruitful. “We will meet the minister again so that we can make the institute better for everyone, especially students,” he said. When The Journal contacted Sunil Bhirud, in-charge Deputy Director of VJTI, he said,

"We are working on the infrastructure and other aspects. We and the administration have certain plans for them." An ex-student currently working at an MNC said, “Graduating from VJTI was the best thing I did in my life. The years at college were my happiest. The institute is humble, and so are the faculty members.”

About the infrastructure, he said, “It is old indeed, and so is the institute. I think the authorities should take the infrastructure seriously, primarily for safety reasons. Our hostel, too, used to have leakages and damp walls in the monsoon. It used to make the rooms stink.”

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