‘Militarisation’ of Bihar Varsity Campuses: Teachers’ Bodies Cry Foul
Temples of learning in Bihar are being turned into war zones, allege academicians, students and politicians who are protesting against the appointment of 12 retired Army officers and former bureaucrats as registrars of the state’s 10 universities.
Generally, teachers who are capable of handling administrative and financial responsibilities are appointed as university registrars. Unfortunately, none of the 12 heads appointed earlier this week, by Governor Satya Pal Malik, have teaching background.
Of the 12 newly-appointed head of the universities, 10 are ex-defense officials and rest two are retired ‘babus’ of the Bihar Administrative Services. The officials concerned have justified the controversial appointments, arguing that it has been done with an aim to check “mismanagements”, “financial irregularities” and “favoritism” about which there have been “frequent complaints”.
“Army officers are highly disciplined and therefore, they have better capabilities to streamline university operations,” said Principal Secretary to Governor Brijesh Mehrotra.
Previously, cases of favouritism and financial irregularities had surfaced when the teachers from the Universities were appointed as Registrars. The work of the registrars is to look after the administrative and financial work, and the Universities have apparently been going through the financial downturn.
The Governor's Secretariat had asked the Army headquarters to send a list of proposed candidates. The final selection was done according to the recommendations of the search committee, which comprised of the vice chancellors from the state’s three universities. The interview took place on March 16 and the appointments were notified on April 3.
The state's academicians' and teachers' bodies have criticised the decision and have alleged that it is an attempt to snatch away the varsities’ autonomy and control over the campuses.
“The move is aimed at creating fear psychosis in campuses. Universities are temples of learning and bureaucrats and Army officers do not fit in there. Campuses, which are meant for young students, must be dealt with extra sensitivity. The decision must be rolled back,” said KB Sinha, president of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations of Bihar.
The appointments of the Army officials are also in violation of the Bihar State Universities (Amendment) Act, 2017 and the Patna University (Amendment) Act, 2017, that say that apart from academicians, only civil administration officials can be appointed as registrars.
The All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisation (AIFUCTO)'s General Secretary Arun Kumar said the decision was taken without taking all stakeholders in confidence. “Neither the stakeholders were consulted, nor the matter was brought before the UGC-mandated Bihar State Higher Education Council. This is an anti-student decision imposed by the Centre,” he said and added that it as an attempt to “control the campuses by saffronising it”.
The teachers’ bodies – on one hand – are set to challenge the decision, but on the other, a few in the teaching fraternity have argued that the experiment should be given a chance before being criticised.
This appointment was believed to have been proposed by the Centre to the Governor who then sought Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s approval. If sources are to be believed, Kumar had initially rejected the proposal, but later had to “surrender” before the “pressure” from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Governor. “It (such appointments) can be done in all BJP-ruled states without any hindrance but the Centre chose Bihar only to give a message that the decision has been taken by Kumar who enjoys a secular and liberal image. And if he can accept militarisation of the campuses, others should also follow the same. This is the crux of the decision,” an official told Newsclick, on the conditions of strict anonymity.
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