What Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammed Khan was saying all these months regarding the Pinarayi Vijayan Government and its misadventure in using the university campuses as the breeding ground for Marxist ideology through pliable, politically appointed Vice-Chancellors is now confirmed by the Supreme Court through its recent judgement. While squashing the appointment of Vice-Chancellor of Thiruvananthapuram-based Kalam Technological University (KTM), the Supreme Court not only exposed the procedural lapses in the appointment of VCs but reminded the LDF Government the need to appoint apolitical person with high academic credentials to the post of Vice-Chancellor.
Targeting Governor To Shield Their Misrule
This is not the first time that the CPI(M)-led Left Front Government bypassed the rules and guidelines of University Grants Commission in appointing the VCs in Kerala. Governor Arif Mohammed Khan in his capacity as Chancellor of all the State universities was objecting and protesting on the way persons of lower stature were being placed at a highly crucial university chair of Vice-Chancellor thus intentionally downgrading the stature of the VC. Despite Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s objections to the way files are forwarded to him, the Pinarayi Vijayan Government insisted on its right to appoint VCs to the State universities but resorted to counter attack the Governor by labelling him as the agent of Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The LDF Government used the ever obliging Left liberals, academicians and friends in the media with Communist ideology to spread a huge noise terming the well-intended and meaningful suggestions from the office of the Governor as the unwarranted interference into the democratically elected Government of Kerala.
This judgement will certainly rekindle the debate on the quality of VCs being appointed by various State Governments. It is no secret that the days of academic stalwarts heading the universities as VCs has gone long back but the unfortunate new trend is the conversion of VC posts as an extension of the nominated political posts, thus degrading the universities from academic centres to the political camps
Admirers of Xi Jinping
Unfortunately, these liberals are admirers of dictator Xi Jinping and are in agreement with his thoughts and as well as Marxian thoughts, though they are aware of the rules. They have been blindly extending support to the LDF. For them Communist dispensation is above rules and regulations. Thus all these self-labelled intellectuals and liberal Marxists became a party to the degradation of the university administration.
Governor Withdraws Pleasure on Minister’s
In a strongly worded letter to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Vijayan, the State Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said that Finance Minister KN Balagopal has ‘ceased to enjoy his pleasure’ with an implied demand for his withdrawal from the State Cabinet.
He took exception to Minister Balagopal’s reported statement that ‘those people who were accustomed to practices in places such as Uttar Pradesh would not understand the democratic nature in which universities in Kerala function.’ He quoted the Minister as having said during a speech at a campus recently. The Chief Minister took no time in rejecting the demand, reportedly asserting his Constitutional right to appoint or drop ministers as he deemed fit.
However what Pinarayi Vijayan Government and the Left intellectuals forgot was taken up by the alert SC judges. They reminded the forgotten role of the university Vice-Chancellors and the need to protect the sanctity of that coveted post to those in authority and vested with the appointing the Vice-Chancellors.
Justices MR Shah and CT Ravi Kumar of Supreme Court did not mince words when they said that “the post of Vice-Chancellor is a very important post as far as the university is concerned. Being a leader and head of the institution, the Vice-Chancellor of the university has to play a very important role. While academic qualifications, administrative experience, research credentials, and track record could be considered as basic eligibility requirements, the greater qualities of a V-C would be one who is a true leader and passionate visionary”.
It is high time that the dignity of the VC post is re-established and political appointment of VCs stopped and glory to the higher education in the country is rekindled
In the case that went to the Supreme Court, the Pinarayi Vijayan Government is found to have totally ignored the guidelines of University Grants Commission, the apex body of higher education in the country, and followed its own whims to recommend only one name to the post of VC instead of UGC mandated recommendation of three names picked by the search committee. Whether a proper search committee is constituted as per the guidelines of UGC then that committee calls for applicants across the country and deliberates on the eligibility of the applicants. Instead, the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet asked the Governor, in his capacity as the Chancellor, to appoint the lone recommended candidate. The Governor was surprised at the audacity of the Left Front Government in acting as if it was beyond the rules and questions. The Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who was confronting the LDF Government on its various procedural lapses for which unfortunately he is criticised by the liberal Leftists, has now ultimately proved right in his confrontation by the SC.
The argument of Pinarayi Vijayan Government that the technology university came into existence in 2015 through a Kerala State legislation, hence it is beyond UGC guidelines was rejected by the SC. The court emphasised that “central law, in this case, the UGC regulations would prevail over the State law to the extent of conflict between two statues”.
This judgement will certainly rekindle the debate on the quality of VCs being appointed by various State Governments. It is no secret that the days of academic stalwarts heading the universities as VCs has gone long back but the unfortunate new trend is the conversion of VC posts as an extension of the nominated political posts, thus degrading the universities from academic centres to the political camps. This degradation of university standard is not restricted to any one particular party but more rampant in the regional party ruled states. The communist parties are regional parties only and the tag of national party is a gratis from the election commission of India.
Thus unworthy candidates becoming the VCs, as political appointees, are taking care of the political interests of the ruling parties. This is the case in all Southern States including Andhra Pradesh where the Jagan Government appointed VCs are liberally allowing the premises of the universities for ruling party political meets. The VC of Andhra University located at Visakhapatnam is notorious for such political campus activities. As the standards are lowered purposefully, the VC post once meant for highly talented academic leaders are now aspired by all and sundry. The only qualification now needed for the prospective VC is right political connections and not academic standards.
Earlier politicians had a limited role to play in the appointment of universities as that generation of politicians saw academics as sacred ones. The changed trend has now given local MLAs of the ruling party playing a role in picking up a VC of the university. With the concept of a university for every district in place, the Ministers now feel that they can choose the VC just as they can appoint his own favoured officer as the district collector and police superintendent. The district in-charge ministers are bossing over the universities, with VCs in attendance. The sacredness once associated with the university campus has vanished. The vehicles with fluttering ruling party flags running through the university campuses are a common sight these days. The VCs are competing to install the statues of the political masters in the campuses. In some of the states the photo of the Chief Minister, through whom they got the appointment, is found hanging in the official chamber of VCs. The current crop of VCs worship not the Goddess of learning but pay obeisance to the CM of that state.
With the increased role for politicians the VC posts turned out to be ‘purchasable commodity’. There are professors who ‘invested’ to be in the VC seat of a particular university. Such VC’s tenure is heavily focussed on getting back his invested money along with the interest through the funds of university.
The current Governor of Punjab Bhanwarilal Purohit, who spoke after the judgement of Supreme Court, has spoken about the money involved in VCs appointments. While asking the AAP CM Bhgwant Singh to remove Punjab agricultural university he shared his experience as Chancellor when he was the Governor of Tamil Nadu. He said “in Tamil Nadu the Vice-Chancellor post was sold for Rs 40-50 crores”. Purohit is not the only Governor to make such a sale of VC post allegations. The then Governor of Bengal and current Vice-President of India Jagadeep Dhankad also made a similar observation which was confirmed by the media reports. In a state where teachers’ recruitment scam was masterminded by the ministers, the selling of VC posts may not surprise any. Punjab Governor Purohit’s revelation gets credence because in all those three states the CM’s are in a hurry to take away the traditional role assigned to the Chancellor (Governor) in appointing the VCs. They went through legislation or even through ordinance to remove the powers of the governor in final selection of VCs and assign those powers to CMs of the state thus paving the way for total control of the universities by political masters by placing the pliable politically inclined candidates in the VC chair.
The degradation of VC stature in various universities across the country can be gauged from the way some VCs are investigated for corruption and some from Tamil Nadu were arrested for allegedly having disproportionate assets. Similar complaints on the VCs role in the campus came from other states too.
It is high time that the dignity of the VC post is re-established and political appointment of VCs stopped and glory to the higher education in the country is rekindled.