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Helming Visva-Bharati

Editorial |

A technically rudderless central university finally has an academic at the helm. The fact that Visva-Bharati University had to make do without a Vice-Chancellor since 2016 is testament to the overwhelming chaos within. And also perhaps the Centre’s lack of interest in and the disgust with the institution’s functioning.

Bidyut Chakraborty, Professor of Political Science at Delhi University, who has been picked by the Union HRD ministry and his appointment rubber-stamped by the President (the university’s Visitor), will therefore succeed to a sorely depleted inheritance. For all the lilting strain of the theme song, Amader Santiniketan, he will first have to clear the mess in Visva- Bharati’s backyard before pursuing a long-term course correction.

Scarcely noted for academic excellence, it is imperative for Tagore’s creation to shore up its standing and credibility. Both have suffered almost to a point beyond hope in recent years. Not the least because some of Prof Chakraborty’s predecessors have had to leave under a cloud, as for instance his immediate predecessor who was forced to quit in the face of grave irregularities. Another was given to a bout of meditation at Chhatim Tala when confronted with a grave crisis and was heckled by the unions the day he decided on a parting of the ways.

Yet another had cleared an under-qualified person for appointment to a faculty. It is deeply unfortunate that the VC’s chair has been denuded even before Prof. Chakraborty steps into the central administrative building. Though there has been an officiating VC, the vacuum at the helm for two years and nine months has rendered the administration out of joint.

The sluggishness of the HRD ministry must make one wonder whether it was really interested in setting up a search committee for the appointment of a permanent VC, preferring an evasive policy of ad-hocism instead. The files apparently started moving after the Acharya, Prime Minister Modi, participated in the recent convocation. It is of a piece with the callous indifference that the official residence of the Vice- Chancellor at Santiniketan’s Purba Palli has been in a decrepit condition ever since the previous VC stepped out.

The new VC will have to address the menace of almost institutionalised irregularities, embedded in cliquism for which the university has been notorious. It is no disrespect to Tagore’s legacy to aver that clinging onto the past will only militate against forward movement, on which Visva- Bharati or any other university must thrive.

The university has to be in step with the times. The syllabi across disciplines must of necessity be upgraded and the praxis of teaching modernised to the extent possible. For far too long has Visva-Bharati been stranded in a time-warp, made worse by the deadlock over the past two years. The university has been in limbo to the detriment of learning. It must move on.