On official persecution of academicians
By Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
The present Union Human Resource Development Ministry has broken all norms of decency and flouted rules in its campaign to denigrate and persecute academicians like Prof. J.S. Rajput, the former Director of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Dr. Pradeep Joshi, Director of National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, and Vice Chancellors of some universities. It is obvious that the Hon?ble Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Arjun Singh, is acting as a tool of Communist vendetta. As an able administrator and visionary educationist, Prof. Rajput had brought wide international repute to NCERT during his term (1999-2004) and for his stellar role in lifting the Indian school education system from mediocrity and despondency, he had been named for the prestigious Jan Comenious Medal by the World body, UNESCO.
But the HRD Minister Shri Arjun Singh, showing shocking disregard for ethics, recommended to UNESCO the suspension of the award to Prof. Rajput. This is a matter of great national shame. The government owes an explanation to the people of India on why a rare honour was deprived to the entire country.
It is clear after a perusal of the ?executive summary? of the Sathyam Committee Report that the charges against Prof. Rajput are frivolous, baseless, contemptible and politically motivated. A retired IAS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, Shri S. Sathyam has truly given a command performance for his political bosses. For this he has been rewarded with continuous sinecure. He has been allotted government accommodation, vehicles and all facilities to continue with all kinds of vague assignments given by the HRD Ministry.
Smt. Kumud Bansal, a Secretary in the HRD Ministry, was originally given charge of looking into the allegations against Prof. Rajput. It appears that her findings were not up to the satisfaction of the political bosses, therefore the HRD Minister, who was being forced by the Communist lobby to humiliate Prof. Rajput as he had clearly exposed their corruption and intellectual vacuity over the History textbooks issue, brought Shri Sathyam out of retirement and ordered him to conduct a sham inquiry and produce a doctored report to provide some excuse for maligning Dr. Rajput.
There were at least five more distinguished senior academicians who have been maltreated by HRD Minister Shri Arjun Singh. Four Vice Chancellors, who were nominated by me as members of executive committee of the NCERT, were dislodged by him without assigning any reason. The most condemnable, and pitiable, is the act of removal of the Director of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), Dr. Pradeep Joshi.
It is indeed shocking that though Shri Sathyam was given three months to complete the inquiry, he issued a circular to NCERT employees and asked them to come forward with fresh complaints against Prof. Rajput. Pressure was exerted by various means on employees to come up with some allegations. What is significant is that there was no last date set for receiving the ?complaints?. This sort of disgusting political witch-hunt against a retired officer had never been witnessed in the history of India. The Congress-Communist combine, which has set many unfortunate precedents before the nation, has served one more. The message going out is that henceforth no officer holding high office can be sure if a step taken by him, howsoever justified and significant for the country'sinterest, will be free of the fear of political vendetta by a party or parties who he has failed to satisfy or whose vested interests he has upset. This will weaken the morale of our civil services and sap professionals of their honesty and regard for duty.
The manner in which the HRD Minister is using the media to spread salacious lies and calumny against Prof. Rajput is another indicator of the scant respect harboured by him for the institution of free speech. Prof. Rajput was not given the opportunity to represent his case before the Sathyam Committee. Nor was the report or any show cause notice served on him. Choice tit bits were leaked to the Press on plain paper (without the seals of either the Ministry or NCERT) to spread the impression that he was guilty of grievous crimes.
Shockingly, the same government and NCERT hastily closed down a legitimate inquiry into Prof. Arjun Dev'sactivities. This former head of NCERT'sSocial Sciences Department had usurped the authorship of a textbook for Class XII students, Contemporary India, in the name of himself and that of his wife, Prof. Indira Arjun Dev. The real authors? names used to appear in earlier editions of the same book, with Prof. Arjun Dev being named as only its ?Editor?. However, after Prof. Arjun Dev became Head of the Social Sciences Department of NCERT he and his wife began to call themselves the ?authors? of the book while the real authors? names were dropped in all future editions. This called for an investigation and a committee was set up to examine the allegations to this effect. However, one of the first acts of the present regime was to scrap that committee.
The Sathyam Committee ?Report? is yet to be put in the public domain. But from the leaked ?executive summary?, it appears to be nothing more than a regurgitation of old allegations. In July 2002, much the same was fabricated against him when he was NCERT Director defending the National Curriculum Framework for School Education-2000 before the Supreme Court. The authors of the leak had thought they could influence the Hon?ble apex court, but failed. The Supreme Court rejected the case.
As HRD Minister of the time, I had asked for an examination of the allegations of nepotism, favouritism and high-handedness brought against Prof. Rajput. These were found to be baseless. Now the inconsistencies in those allegations have been glossed over while the political angle has been upheld.
The message going out is that henceforth no officer holding high office can be sure if a step taken by him, howsoever justified and significant for the country'sinterest, will be free of the fear of political vendetta by a party or parties who he has failed to satisfy or whose vested interests he has upset.
1. Consider the blatant misrepresentation behind the statement that Smt. Sarla Rajput, who is Prof. Rajput'swife, was ?favoured? for appointment as Professor. She had been with NCERT since 1972, is a first-class-first from Benaras Hindu University and a Karan Singh gold medalist. Her eligibility to be called for an interview had been cleared by a committee headed by Prof. Arjun Dev before Prof. Rajput had become Director in July 1999. The Selection Committee was headed by Prof. A.D. Pant, a highly reputed academician known for his erudition and integrity.
2. Smt. Diksha, the daughter of Prof. Rajput, is a competent editor of journals and publications. She was selected for a position with NCERT by a committee headed by the Joint Director. At any rate, she never joined NCERT even for a day. She got a position with UGC which had nothing to do with Prof. Rajput.
3. Similarly, the charge that Dr. S.C. Chowhan, a brother-in-law of Prof. Rajput, secured a lecturer'spost in NCERT, using unfair means is downright falsehood. His candidature was evaluated by a selection committee headed by the Joint Director, and Prof. Rajput had nothing to do with it.
4. Equally ridiculous is the charge that during Prof. Rajput'sterm more people had sought voluntary retirement than ever before. This is cited as proof of his ?dictatorial? tendencies, and his ?arrogance?, etc. The seeking of voluntary retirement is necessitated by several factors, not least being the social reality of the time. Thanks to Prof. Rajput NCERT heightened its image. Many employees found lucrative job offers elsewhere and availed the excellent packages offered by the government of the time. Moreover, how can it be that Prof. Rajput, who himself took voluntary retirement in April 2004, was a victim of his own policies? This shows how imaginative the HRD Minister can be in his misrepresentation.
5. I wish to state on record that in the matter of appointments of consultants and other specialized professionals, the Director of NCERT is vested with full authority. As the then HRD Minister, I found Dr. Rajput working according to established norms and practices and upholding the rules and regulations.
I demand that Shri Arjun Singh immediately call off this unsavoury victimisation of a good man. The honesty and integrity of Prof. Rajput are not in doubt, but the intentions of the Minister are. It must be pointed out that Shri Singh, in his previous stint as HRD Minister, had used Prof. Rajput'sservices in the Ministry and had found him to be so competent that he had rewarded him with the post of Chairman of National Council for Teachers Education. How is it that a ?dictatorial? and ?high handed? man like Prof. Rajput was found suitable by him in 1994?
The government should immediately restore Prof. Rajput'shonour and scrap further proceedings planned by him. UNESCO should be informed that the charges against him were found grossly untrue. This is the least Arjun Singh can do to redeem himself in the public eye.
Arjun Singh, showing shocking disregard for ethics, recommended to UNESCO the suspension of the award to Prof. Rajput. This is a matter of great national shame.
Apart from Prof. Rajput there were at least five more distinguished senior academicians who have been maltreated by HRD Minister Shri Arjun Singh. Four Vice Chancellors, who were nominated by me as members of executive committee of the NCERT, were dislodged by him without assigning any reason. The most condemnable, and pitiable, is the act of removal of the Director of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), Dr. Pradeep Joshi. On October 5, 2004, the Director NIEPA, received three office notes along with nine bills from the HRM's(Human Resource Minister?s) office, asking the Director to pay the said nine bills (NPS 11130, 11131, 11132 dt. September 16, 2004, for Rs. 18552.05; NPS 10956, 10957, 10958 dt. August 26, 2004 for Rs. 15692.44, and bill Nos. 10885, 10886, 10887, dt. July 31, 2004, for Rs. 15712.87) totaling to Rs. 49957.36 (Rs. Forty nine thousand nine hundred fifty seven and paise thirty six only). These bills were raised by M/s Aelpe Services, providers of taxi cars in respect of taxi car used for ?Minister'sGuests? during the period July 1 to Sept. 15, 2004. These bills were required to be paid by Director, NIEPA to M/s Aelpe Services, C-27, DDA Complex, Defence Colony, Opp. Moolchand Flyover, New Delhi-110024 at the earliest.
Director, NIEPA, Dr. Pradeep Joshi, refused to bear the said expenses incurred as taxi charges for the taxis used by the Minister'sguests. Vide his letter No. F 13-1/2000/GA dt. Oct. 11, 2004, the Director returned all the nine bills to HRM, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi, stating that the NIEPA was unable to pay the bills (raised for the taxis used by minister'sguests) as NIEPA had no budget to meet such expenses. NIEPA, however, added one more line in the said letter, ?If this (payment of the nine bills) is to be met out of the institutes? budget, a separate sanction to this effect may kindly be sent.
On Oct. 15, 2004, the Director, NIEPA, received all the said, SAME nine bills, under three separate office notes from the HRM'soffice ?for payment at the earliest?. This time the office notes did not mention the words ?Minister'sGuests?. The office notes instead mentioned ?in respect of taxi car used for ?official use of the Hon?ble HRM? during the period July 1, 2004 to Sept. 15, 2004. It was a blatant fraud played by the HRM. The Director, NIEPA, did not pay the bills raised for even ?the taxi used for official use of the Hon?ble HRM?, and result was Pradeep Joshi'sabrupt dismissal.
The HRD Minister must explain to the public on why the said office notes were amended so ludicrously and fraudulently. How can one expect the bureaucracy to remain upright and render service to the public which bear all the government expenses? Social morality and dutifulness will have to suffer unless thorough probe is carried out on what were the circumstances under which the HRM had to amend the letter so fraudulently. Public has right to know the circumstances under which the Hon?ble Minister of HRD could not get official vehicles for performing his government duties during the period 1st July 2004 to 15 Sept. 2004, when he had to hire private taxi car for ?official use? and pay the tax-payers about Rs. 50 thousand as taxi fare to a private firm.
(Writer is former HRD Minister)