Restoring educational credibility
It is essential for our country to overcome the pervasive corruption in institutions of higher learning, which has led to a systemic rot
For about a decade, allegations have been levelled against the state government circumscribing the positions in higher learning institutions, from the post of Vice-Chancellor to the last grade non-teaching staff, which are being sold and purchased, resulting in the diminished quality of revered institutions. It is not only the quality, but also the values nurtured in those institutions that have been lost. The above lamentations have been made by many political parties barring the two Dravidian parties, as both have been in power alternatively.
Academics of repute have been sore over these developments, as the quality of teaching and research have reached their lowest ebb. Positions in academic institutions have lost their charm and people in power have never bestowed the desired respect. All institutions of higher learning have been converted into examination centres and certificate issuing bodies. Poor quality of teaching and research has neither helped the certificate holders nor the society at large. As a result, higher learning institutions are producing more number of graduates with certificates rather than transforming them into instruments of social agency with self-confidence. Corrupt practices in higher learning institutions are the extension of the regularised corruption pervasive in governance and administration over the past three decades. The public has been made equally insensitive towards these corrupt tactics. Many are unaware of the implications of valueless education offered in the higher learning institutions.
To destroy a society, one need not seek the help of anti-social elements, it can be done very easily by offering substandard education. The byproducts of the poor quality of education are inefficient doctors, valueless politicians, incompetent engineers, poor-quality teachers, and inefficient professionals. And we are all well aware of the consequences of such negligence. Quality of education will enhance the quality of life, growth of the economy, and politics with value and fairness. It will enhance the quality of governance, administration and service delivery. But, unfortunately, people are immune to corruption and, as a result, citizens have not been sensitised to corruption in education. People who agitated against the ban on Jallikattu and NEET examination have not evinced any interest in checking the corrupt practices elsewhere. Political parties too have not been consistent in their fight against corrupt practices which have crept into institutions of higher learning. It is a serious issue which needs immediate attention, but it does not gather such scrutiny.
Now, the arrest of the Vice-Chancellor of Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu has sent a shock wave and triggered public discourse on cleansing the higher education system. Political parties including the prime opposition in Tamil Nadu want a CBI inquiry into this event. But, many political parties demand a comprehensive inquiry into all the state university commissions and omissions in the past two decades. Mr. Narayanan, Director, Change India, a civil society organisation, went to court on this issue. He led a delegation with eminent public personalities and met the Governor of Tamil Nadu requesting him to look into the issue and initiate remedial action. Nobody in Tamil Nadu, including the political parties, has struggled for the correction of this issue as consistently through the past one decade as Narayanan. A Congress leader from Tamil Nadu made a direct attack on the Governor (Governor belonged to the same party) for his studied silence on the issue. A veteran academic and a former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University openly made a remark that the Vice-Chancellor positions are sold for seven crores rupees in Tamil Nadu. Even now, one former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University (Coimbatore), is in prison for his misuse of office. Raids have been conducted in the house and office of the Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Medical University. Cases are pending against many former Vice-Chancellors for their omissions and commissions. As a result, the respectable offices in higher learning institutions have lost their credibility and morality. It is no doubt that this evil is rampant in Tamil Nadu. But, it isn't only restricted to Tamil Nadu.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, during the UPA-II regime, had openly lamented about how institutions of higher learning are sinking in corruption. Many Central university Vice Chancellors have faced serious charges of corruption. Raids had been conducted in their offices. Pondicherry Central University's Vice-Chancellor was removed by the Supreme Court. No regulatory bodies of higher education have been an exception to these allegations. The classic case is the office of the chairman of the Indian Medical Council. Truckloads of currency notes have been unearthed while his house was raided. The higher education system is in deep crisis. By this time, the new government under Narendra Modi could have brought credibility and morality to the system through introducing reform and a new education policy. A government committed to rooting out corruption has not evinced interest in higher education in India by sulking its responsibility and procrastinating reforming the system. Everyone expected the new government would act swiftly and firmly in eradicating corruption with its intervention as education is on the concurrent list. But, nothing concrete has yet been accomplished by the new government. Even today, it is not too late to constitute a high-level inquiry committee under the headship of the sitting judge of the Supreme Court to unearth the maladies affecting the system and usher in credibility in higher education in India.
(The author is Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. The views expressed are strictly personal)