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Denuding universities of autonomy

Denuding universities of autonomy
The Madhya Pradesh government has introduced a bill in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly, which, if passed, will result in complete erosion of the autonomy enjoyed by the universities of the state. The provisions of the bill are such that they will reduce the universities to the status of government colleges.

Besides universities, the government, by executive order, has effected such changes in the subjects to be taught in government colleges, which are bound to cause inconvenience to the students.

Surprisingly, the changes have been effected in those colleges which are located in old part of Bhopal. It is affecting girls, particularly those hailing from minority community. So far, the girls could opt for those subjects in the colleges which are located at walking distance from their residences. Now these subjects, particularly of science faculty, will now be taught in college which are located far away (in some cases more than five to six kilometres).

The Madhya Pradesh Universities (Amendment) Bill 2014 has such provisions which rob the universities of their right to appoint teachers and administrative staff. Now the right to appoint teachers will be vested in the State Public Service Commission.

As per the provisions of the proposed bill, class three and class four employees will be appointed by the State Professional Examinations Board. This provision is being made at such a time when the credibility of this organisation is zero because of the baring of large-scale irregularities and corrupt practices in the body in selecting unqualified persons for various posts. A number of its officers are already behind bars.

Those who are facing serious charges in this connection include a former BJP minister and another BJP functionary who enjoyed a ministerial status. Now this corrupt organisation is proposed to be entrusted with the task of selecting employees for universities.

As far as the public service commission is concerned, its reputation is also in the mud. The opposition has alleged that at the behest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an unqualified person was appointed as the chairman of the PSC.

It is also alleged that in the past, undeserving candidates have been selected by the PSC, including a niece of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. It is further alleged that question papers of some exams were leaked with the active connivance of the PSC authorities. Now this body will select teachers for universities. The PSC, as constituted now, does not have experts who have the capacity to select teachers for various subjects taught in universities. There is yet another provision of the bill which empowers the state government to transfer teachers of one university to another university.

Most of the universities have such faculties which do not exist in other universities. There is a policy to develop expertise in particular subjects in specific universities. Thus, if inter-university transfer policy is enforced it will also rob the universities of their unique character. As is well known, the threat of transfer is used to terrorise government officials to fall in line. Transfer orders are issued and cancelled after big sums as bribery are paid to the concerned authorities. Now the same story will be repeated in the universities. According to one former Education Minister, now the monthly salary of college teachers is almost Rs one lakh. Thus, they can easily part with a couple of lakhs to get a posting of their choice or to prevent their transfer from their present place of posting. 

The bill also seeks to alter the character of the Executive Council of the universities. At present, the governor, who is the ex-officio chancellor of the universities, has a decisive say in the constitution of the Executive council. The chancellor can nominate some categories of members of the council. Now this power will vest in the state government. Under the existing provisions, the chancellor can nominate principals of any four affiliated colleges of the university to its executive council. But according to the provisions of the new bill, the four principals will be nominated by the government.

The most dangerous provision relating to the constitution of the executive council is that besides other members, the Commissioner of the division and Inspector general of police of the zone where the university is located will be ex-officio members of the executive council. Thus, the executive council, according to the provisions of the proposed bill, will be dominated by the government servants. Perhaps it is for the first time that a police officer will be the associated with the highest decision making organ of the university.

The provisions of the bill have evoked a sharp reaction among teachers, who are resorting to agitation including dharna and fasts. Besides university teachers the proposed law has also been criticised by the civil society.
L S Herdenia

L S Herdenia

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