The West Bengal Governor has made a pregnant observation, whose implications call for serious reflection and not least by the state’s education department. Implicit is the stout resentment against the minister’s belief that as the source of funds, it is the government’s prerogative to dictate the terms of engagement.
More accurately, this has made a mockery of the concept of autonomy in the three potential centres of excellence in Kolkata ~ Jadavpur, Calcutta, and Presidency universities.
Mercifully thus far, only St Xavier’s, now upgraded to a university, remains unscathed as the influence of the Church lends no scope for the government’s control games.
Mr Keshari Nath Tripathi, in his capacity as the Chancellor of the state universities, has articulated his profound frustration over the fact that he feels “like a toothless tiger because of limited powers”. The gubernatorial sniper attack at the state authorities could scarcely have been more severe.
Most particularly, he has taken umbrage to the fact that “in Bengal, even the name of the Chancellor’s nominee to the search committee constituted to appoint a Vice-Chancellor is decided following consultation with the higher education minister”.
Even the selection of Raj Bhavan’s nominee on the search panel has been reduced to a political decision although the Governor is not entirely blameless for the politicisation of his office. But sad to reflect, the Trinamul Congress dispensation has finetuned the praxis of the CPI-M.
It is political worthies who pick VCs. Indeed, a few Vice-Chancellors almost willingly function as the government’s partners in the political game that is played out on the campuses, in Bengal and elsewhere.
It would be pertinent to recall that a former VC of Calcutta University had almost genuflected at the ministerial altar when he made the academically vacuous remark that as the government provides funds, the VC is dutybound to abide by the government’s imprimatur.
Another VC had bent over to offer pranam to the Chief Minister on convocation day. It is quite another story that Presidency University now contends with a welter of irritants, notably the partially vacant classrooms.
Mr Tripathi has sought to draw parallels with Uttar Pradesh and also, if rather surprisingly, Bihar as well. “In UP, the decisions taken by the University Senate and Syndicate are sent to the Chancellor for approval. In Bihar, if there is a dispute over the transfer or promotion of teachers, it is referred to the Chancellor.”
And then the punchline of his swipe at the educational scenario in West Bengal ~ “Everybody knows the prevailing state of affairs here.” The Governor has bared his angst on one of the primary indices of welfare considering that the topic of his presentation was “My days in West Bengal as Governor”.