Silence reigned at the National Institute of Technology, Durgapur, with eleven days of continued agitation, sloganeering and shouting coming to a halt on Sunday when the director of the institute finally declared that he was going to put in his papers.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), to put an end to the impasse, asked Tarkeswar Kumar, the director to resign on Sunday. Kumar&’s responsibility became the focus of controversy after the death of a final year electrical engineering student Prosenjit Sarkar on 18 November due to alleged negligence of the institute&’s medical unit. Despite his severe illness in the semester examination hall, Prosenjt was sent back to his hostel room. Dr A Sarkar, the medical officer, according to Uditya Ghosh and Rahul Das, batch-mates of the deceased, “mocked Prosenjit&’s illness, saying it was just a plea to escape the exams.”
Prosenjit, however, succumbed on the way to a private tertiary care hospital in the night.
This caused the NIT student to erupt in protest and they gathered to address their grievances to the director, but the latter refused to face the angry horde. The students staged protest in front of his residence till the wee hours of the following morning but the director had called up the police, alleging that the students were about to attack his house.
A RAF contingent was immediately pressed into action by the Asansol Durgapur Police. However, they held back as they found nothing foul on the part of the students.
The Students’ Gymkhana came forward to lead a mass boycott of academic activities since 19 November and put forward two major demands - resignation of the director and punitive measures against the medical officer along with other medical staff involved.
Though the NIT had constituted a seven-member inquiry committee led by Dr A K Saha, it is yet to table a report. The Gymkhana had sought intervention by Smriti Irani, HRD minister and she reciprocated immediately and sent two senior MHRD officials, R S Solanki and P K Saha, who arrived at the campus on 24 November.
Considering the deteriorating situation, according to the senior officials: “ Irani gave consent to ask the director to step down to put an end to the issue.”
On Sunday, Tarkeswar Kumar convened an urgent meeting in which all the Deans with the NIT and three Gymkhana leaders -Rohit Kumar Yadav, Sagar Bhartiya and Eslavath Deevakiran Naik- were also asked to attend.
“He, in the presence of the students stated that he was going to put in his papers,” said Anirudhha Ganguly, dean (Administration), NIT.
The chairman, Board of Governors, NIT, Professor A B Bhattacharya told The Statesman from New Delhi: “The MHRD asked me to instruct Tarkeswar to tender his resignation. On Monday he will put in his papers. This was a dynamic and unprecedented decision.”
He added: “Considering the continued uproar there, MHRD found this as the most suitable decision.” Prof Bhattacharya further said: “I shall be at NIT within a couple of days and director from some other NIT will be asked to take interim charge.”
On Monday Tarkeswar Kumar will put in his papers