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Ministry of Education Must Explain One Year Delay in Appointing New VC: JNUTA

Ravi Kaushal |
The Ministry of Education had issued two advertisements on October 24, 2020, and then again on October 3, 2021, inviting eligible candidates to fill the vacancy. Yet the JNU Search Cum Selection Committee are yet to decide on the next VC.

Coming down heavily on the Ministry of Education, Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) on Tuesday said that the delay in the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor is severely hitting academics in one of India’s premier research universities, while other universities completed this process months ago.

Caretaker VC M Jagadesh Kumar’s five-year tenure ended on January 26, 2021, a tenure that entailed a number of controversies, including sedition charges on students of the university like Kanhaiya Kumar, Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid, the fee hike movement and subsequent violent attack on students and teachers of the university on January 5, 2020, by the members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP), students arm of the RSS.

The Ministry of Education had issued two advertisements on October 24, 2020, and then again on October 3, 2021, inviting eligible candidates to fill the vacancy. Yet the JNU Search Cum Selection Committee comprising the National Board of Accreditation KK Agarwal and Ashok Gajanan Modak could not decide the next VC.

In a statement, JNUTA Secretary Moushumi Basu said that “in the university system, the position of the Vice-Chancellor is an important one. Yet it has been over a year now that JNU, one of the country's premier universities, has been functioning without a full-time Vice-Chancellor. Several other Central Universities that had a similar vacancy have had new appointees. What then explains the delay in the case of JNU?”

Basu highlighted that Kumar continues to take decisions of academic importance concerning the university even when the rules and statutes forbid any caretaker VC in doing so. Kumar was part of the recent academic council meeting where the body gave its nod to implement Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET) vehemently opposed by teachers and students alleging push to the proliferation of coaching institutes resulting in depriving the poor students from entering the higher education institutions.

She said, "Directives issued by the Ministry of Education and provisions of JNU’s statutes explicitly forbid Vice-Chancellors whose tenures are formally over from taking decisions on policy matters of a substantive nature. Yet, important decisions related to policy matters are being pushed through by the Caretaker Vice-Chancellor, without any discussion, that have far-reaching consequences for JNU in the long run. On the teaching front, while the university moved to online teaching during the Pandemic - despite several requests there was no financial help provided to faculty for purchase of teaching aids by the university. No institutional subscription was provided to faculty for any online platform wherein bigger classes could be easily accommodated. To top it all, the Caretaker VC paid no heed to demands for a review of online teaching and learning suggested by faculty representatives. No steps were taken by him to personally ensure that faculty were duly rewarded with additional Earned Leave for working without any break over the past two years.”

The statement added that the Ministry should also explain the illegalities committed by Kumar in appointing the chairpersons of centres and delay in appointing the faculty positions of reserved categories. “Regarding filling of teaching posts, particularly the reserved positions, there have been inordinate delays due to willful misinterpretation of the roster system by the VC, to rectify which faculty members had to move court. The exercise of reexamining the roster for faculty recruitment as ordered by the Delhi High Court was thereafter undertaken without even the slightest admission of a wrong committed earlier by the JNU administration. While the new roster still has many limitations that the petitioners have pointed out, the administration has made no attempts to rectify these anomalies.”

Highlighting the Delhi High Court, which struck down the decision of Kumar regarding the appointment of chairpersons, the statement maintained,” The Delhi High Court has similarly called out the illegalities committed by the VC on the selection of Chairpersons. Yet, the VC continues to brazen it out by simply ignoring university processes in administrative matters. His practice of muting microphones of those who raise questions on his way of functioning during meetings of statutory bodies, his willful distortion of minutes and records of proceedings, and last-minute introduction of important agenda matters so that they can be rushed through illegally, the orchestrated bullying of those who do show the integrity to stand up to illegalities, is by now a well-recognised pattern of functioning adopted by the administration led by him.”

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