As the era of mediocre academic leadership unfolds, the states of academic environment and governance in central universities in India are fast deteriorating. The rise of undeserving, in-capable and mediocratic individuals as academic leaders to take over national institutions is dragging the academic standards, thus, compromising careers of thousands of Indian students and perilously downgrading research, which is the basis for societal progress and advancement of national welfare. The recent removal of vice-chancellors of the Visva-Bharati University and Pondicherry University in 2016 and institution of inquiries against those of IGNOU, Jamia Milia Islamia, Allahabad University, and Aligarh Muslim University in the last two years throws spine chilling cases of issues with academic leaders selected to head these national institutions.
Unfortunately, the governance model of Central Universities in India leaves little scope to make the Vice-Chancellors accountable for their action or inaction. The vice-chancellor of a Central University enjoys vast powers and he/she could easily manipulate the composition of Executive Council (EC) for his own advantage. For instance, in Central University of Gujarat (CUG), the VC nominates as many as six EC members and also could decide not to fill the EC vacancies representing different cadres of teachers. The VC may upgrade different departments into Schools just to promote his own “yes men” to become members of EC in the capacity of Dean of Schools. In a scenario where the VC constitute an EC with its majority members are “yes men” and if the VC turns out to be corrupt one, then nobody on this earth can save the future of the national institution concerned. The VC in the disguise of EC decision/endorsement could do anything he desires or could manipulate facts to justify each of his action even if it is illegal.
On the degradation of quality of academic leadership, CUG offers a classical example. Now we have the case of Vice-Chancellor of a Central University, Prof. S. A. Bari who is already infamous for illegally appointing his own wife as a professor in CUG and also blatantly denying students of their fundamental constitutional rights to hold peaceful protest. University is a bundles of ideas and freedom to ask questions but CUG students are suffocating a lot if one goes by students’ thoughts expressed in social media. There are serious allegations levelled against Prof. Bari by a number of reserved category candidates and students that he is promoting caste based discrimination to favour appointment of people close to him while denying equal opportunities to dalit candidates and influencing the report of inquiry into complaints filed by dalit students. Enjoying an unbridled power, Prof. Bari is allegedly creating an environment of fear and suffocation (due to notices being issued on flimsy pretext) among teachers and students gravely endangering the academic foundation of the national institution concerned.
The curious case of suspension of the OBC Associate Professor
On 18th January 2017, Vice-Chancellor suspended Dr. Jaya Prakash Pradhan who has been working in the capacity of an Associate Professor at the Center for Studies in Economics and Planning at the CUG since September 2012. In addition to academic responsibilities, Dr. Pradhan has been assigned with a wide variety of roles contributing to co-curricular, administrative and scholastic improvement of the students of the University. The order of suspension bases its contention on discrimination and caste bias attitude of Dr. Pradhan, question the eligibility of his appointment and his role as a member of University Level Admission Committee. This order of suspension now raises more questions than it answers. Dr. Pradhan is reportedly undertaking an indefinite sit-in protest infront of the University since 2nd February 2017 demanding an independent and impartial judicial inquiry at the level of MHRD into all complaints against him and also his complaints against the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. S. A. Bari and Registrar, Prof. S.L. Hiremath. Some students under the condition anonymity have stated that Dr. Pradhan is being approached by senior professors and Central University of Gujarat Teachers Association (CUGTA) functionary with the offer of amicable solution, which is nothing but persuading Dr. Pradhan to withdraw his complaints pending against VC and registrar in lieu of the promise to facilitate his professorship.
The above facts established that the real reasons for suspension are Dr. Pradhan’s pending complaints against the authorities and his sister approaching the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court for her grievances related to admission process. As per Dr. Pradhan’s detailed representations against the various orders including suspension, the strategy adopted by the VC is to implicate Dr. Pradhan in false charges through fabricated reports of different inquiry committees and then use the suspension as a pressure tactics to make Dr. Pradhan withdraw his complaint against the VC and Registrar. It is noteworthy that the legal opinion obtained by the CUG Teachers Association (CUGTA) has already confirmed that Dr. Pradhan has been facing discrimination in the University.
Let’s understand the context that led to the suspension of Dr. Pradhan in more detail.
Pending complaints of discrimination and selective targeting against VC and Registrar
Dr. Pradhan has complained against Prof. S. A. Bari, Vice-Chancellor citing discrimination, deprivation, and selective targeting in connection with preventing his promotion under the Career Advancement Scheme and also Deanship of the School of Social Sciences. Complaints are pending with the OBC Liaison Officer of the University filed on 3rd August 2016 and reminder on 20th December 2016; those pending with the Hon’ble President of India, Union HRD Minister, UGC Chairman and NCBC Chairperson filed on 27th September 2016 and kind reminder on 4th January 2017. His complaint of selective targeting, mental harassment and torture against Prof. S. L. Hiremath is also pending with OBC Liaison Officer filed on 2nd November 2016.
Pending Special Civil Application by Dr. Pradhan’s sister against the decision of the Admission Committee 2016-17, CUG
Dr. Pradhan’s sister, on her own, has challenged the legality of changing the criteria of merit list preparation in the middle of the admission process for the M.Phil. programme in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.
Retribution, Selective Targeting and Suspension
In view of the above pending complaints, harboring malicious and willful intention, VC Prof. S. A. Bari and Registrar Prof. S. L. Hiremath took an acrimonious approach against Dr. Pradhan and started issuing notices on flimsy pretext and setting up inquiry committees with the sole intention of harassing him and wasting his valuable time meant for teaching, research and mentoring of young scholars at the university.
The Vice-Chancellor constituted as many as two Inquiry Committees against Dr. Pradhan and included people close to VC as members and who had interest in the case or those who are partial. Without accepting Dr. Pradhan’s written statement, Prof. Fulekar submitted a fully one-sided, biased and fabricated report. Similarly, the Committee headed by Prof. Muttayya reportedly submitted two reports on alternate days. It is surprising that Muttayya Committee reports were submitted on 6th and 7th January 2017 while decision against Dr. Pradhan based on these was reports were allegedly taken in EC meeting held on 5th January 2017.
Without issuing/sharing charge-sheet, supporting documents for the charges, reports of inquiry committees or show-cause notice, Dr. Pradhan was suspended from service based on fabricated and motivated report of the Inquiry Committee headed by Prof. M. H. Fulekar on 18th January 2017. This suspension is completely illegal as (i) Dr. Pradhan’s promotion was held back on the basis of the false complaint of a student in 2016 and (ii) and utilizing a fabricated report of the Inquiry Committee on the very same complaint, Dr. Pradhan was suspended from service in 2017 and (ii) also socially boycotted by debarring him from coming to the university even for interacting with his students. Most unfortunately an issue of evaluation and grading was presented as a case of caste bias and discrimination.
Deteriorating academic environment
Following the selective targeting of Dr. Pradhan and his suspension based on fabricated reports of inquiry committees, teachers as well students in the University are appeared to be divided lots. Under the condition anonymity, some students opined that VC is practicing divide and rule policy by pitching teachers against teachers and students against students. A few students even opined that Dr. Pradhan suspension has negatively affected the teaching and research environment of the University, especially in the discipline of economics.
Sadly, in the whole episode of suspension of Dr. Pradhan a renowned economist, the real victim seems to be the university itself. With-hunting, selective targeting and dividing teachers could only harm the university more than any individual in the long run. The students are the ultimate sufferers of deteriorating academic environment of a national institution.
Via: Mahatma Jyotirao Phule & Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Educational Circle