A day after seeking help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in procurement of Covid- 19 vaccines, chief minister Mamata Banerjee today wrote another letter urging him to direct the ministry of education to immediately withdraw its revised guidelines which stipulated state-aided universities to get prior consent from it for holding virtual/ online international seminars and conferences.

Alleging that the state governments were not consulted before issuing such guidelines, Miss Banerjee wrote: “Our universities must enjoy the highest possible degree of self-governance and freedom”.

“Knowledge is neither created by nor belongs to any single country and community. Reasonable regulations and restrictions are understandable. However, the restrictions imposed by the office memorandum under reference, further highlights the intention of the government of India towards centralisation of the higher education system in our country,” the letter read.

Miss Banerjee asked whether “it is not an attempt of the central government to introduce thought policing in educational institutions by trying to impose ‘One Nation, One Thought”.

Miss Banerjee highlighted that digital platforms have become a boon for teachers and students in rural areas, small towns and cities and said: “It will not be out of place to mention that education is in the Concurrent list of Constitution and any non-consultation by the government of India with the state governments before issuing any such instructions to the educational institutions will be against the spirit of the federal structure”.

Any such communication will only be viewed as an example of “contempt of constitutional powers of the states”, she added.

The ministry of education in an order issued on 15 January had stated that publicly funded universities will have to “seek approval” of the respective “administrative Secretary” for organising any “online/virtual international conferences/seminars/training etc” and while granting permission to hold such events, must ensure that the subject matter of the event did not relate to the “security of the State, border, northeast states, UT (union territory) of J&K, Ladakh, or any other issues which are clearly/ purely related to India’s internal matters”.