250 Himachal Pradesh University Teachers Appointed Against UGC Rules
Himachal Pradesh University. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
The revelations made in a Students’ Federation of India RTI query of almost 16,000 pages about the appointment of around 250 assistant professors, associate professors and professors to the Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) have exposed the worst form of nexus, nepotism and corruption in the state’s academic history. Only a commission of inquiry can bring out the details of this ‘scam’ in the last three years, particularly during the pandemic.
The faculty members were recruited in violation of University Grants Commission (UGC) rules and the Himachal Pradesh University Act, 1970, between 2018 and 2021, when Sikander Kumar was the vice-chancellor, the RTI query shows. For example, some of the candidates were selected without meeting the criterion of having done research and publish research papers/articles in journals specified by the UGC.
In some cases, selected candidates had shown work experience even before completing a master’s degree or PhD. One candidate had submitted seven published papers out of which five appeared in one single journal of journalism and mass communication, the RTI query reveals.
An ideal candidate should clear the UGC’s National Eligibility Test (NET) before applying. In 2009, the rules were relaxed to allow candidates who hadn’t cracked the NET but had PhDs. However, the PhD should have been done in regular mode, two papers should have been published in journals pertaining to the PhD thesis, at least, two seminars should have been attended pertaining to the thesis topic, evaluation of the PhD should have been done by an external examiner and viva should have been done on an open platform.
However, several candidates who had neither cleared the NET nor had PhDs were selected, the RTI query further reveals.
A teaching experience of minimum eight years is another requirement to be eligible for the post of associate professor, according to UGC rules. However, in some of the appointments, only plain certificates from the last institutions without furnishing other details—mention of service book, income tax return, etc.—were attached.
Shockingly, some of the candidates had availed extraordinary leaves during their previous employment but the leave period has also been considered part of experience in research and teaching. A government servant was appointed assistant professor against the economically weaker section category, the RTI shows.
Another blatant violation of rules was the transfer of one post from one department to another. A post advertised in the biotechnology department was transferred to the physical education department despite strong objections from the dean of biotechnology.
HPU’s highest decision-making body is the executive council (EC), which takes final decisions even on appointments. However, the EC’s powers were usurped by the V-C, who issued appointment letters to the candidates on the day of interview.
In the case of 15 appointments to the information technology department, candidates with MTech degrees were preferred to ones with PhDs. Some of the candidates had furnished experience certificates showing they had served in shops.
In one case, the last 40 candidates in the selection list were appointed while the top ones were left out. Then there are cases where a candidate found ineligible by the screening committee was called for an interview and appointed.
Without the tacit or active support of the university administration and the state government, the scam would not have been possible. It is imperative for people to know that such teachers could actually ruin the careers of thousands of students and eventually jeopardise the institution itself.
The writer is the former deputy mayor of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. The views are personal.
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