Headless Uttarakhand Universities Slacking Owing To Govt's Bad Boss Attitude

Headless Uttarakhand Universities Slacking Owing To Govt's Bad Boss Attitude

Headless Uttarakhand Universities Slacking Owing To Govt's Bad Boss Attitude

Dehradun, Uttarakhand: Political intercession hinders higher education in U'khand as varsity heads cite obstructions.


Dehradun: All is not well with state of university education in Uttarakhand as many varsities remain headless in the state for long periods due to constant bureaucratic interference in routine work of appointed vice-chancellors. With several renowned educationists stepping down from their posts, even serving Administrative officers have had to take charge of operations, owing to political intercession that delays selections. IAS officers have been put in charge as head of universities across the state.


Established by first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru as the first state agricultural university of India, the Gobin Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUAT) had played a vital role in the Green Revolution as well. IAS officers have had to take charge of this varsity thrice so far, including the recent appointment of Rajiv Rautela, divisional commissioner of Kumaon, as interim VC on September 26 last year. Rautela remained on the post until the selection procedure was completed and Dr Tez Pratap Singh was appointed VC by the Governor. Before Rautela, Subhash Kumar and Alok Jain had been the VC between 2012 and 2015 while both of them were chief secretaries.


The last VC to complete his full tenure at GBPUAT was Dr V K Bisht, whose term was also extended by six months twice. As the government (under leadership of both, the BJP and the Congress) couldn’t finish selection procedure timely, the then Chief Secretary was given the charge. Later in March 2015, even when GBPUAT got a VC in Dr Mangala Rai, the renowned agricultural scientist from Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), he resigned soon after in August 2016, citing political and bureaucratic intervention in executing the work.


Rajesh Shukla, a BJP MLA who is also the member of Board of Management at GBPUAT, says that Dr Rai’s resignation over alleged intervention was very unfortunate as he had been the DG at ICAR. Shukla guesses that one of the probable reasons for Rai to have quit so soon could be not being able to adjust to the work culture and atmosphere at GBPUAT after having served at ICAR. He, however, is hopeful that the new VC and the changed regime at the state would help the varsity gain its lost splendour.


Interim heads have had to be appointed at GBPUAT seven times (including IAS officers on three occasions) between 2012 and 2018.


Ministers fain unawareness


Agriculture minister of Uttarakhand, Subodh Uniyal, says he is not aware why the selection committee’s procedure was delayed until the appointment of a full-time VC. Since Dr. Tez Pratap has joined as full time Head, let's be positive now, he added.


University of Kumaun’s image suffered a hit when Rakesh Bhatnagar, a renowned educationist from JNU, quit from the Vice-Chancellor’s post within six months of assuming charge in May 2013. He too cited political and bureaucratic pressure as a hindrance in executing his responsibilities. Then Divisional Commissioner of Kumaun R K Sudhanshu, was made an interim head, which was the second instance of an IAS officer stepping in as VC. S Raju, who was divisional commissioner in 2012, had earlier been made the acting VC of University of Kumaun then.


Washing his hands of the lacunae of past, current state minister of Higher Education (independent charge), Dhan Singh Rawat, says he is not aware of the reasons why selection of VC’s took more than stipulated time under previous Congress governments. “But I can assure you history will not repeat further because current BJP government is focusing on providing qualitative higher education in Uttarakhand.”


Rawat adds: “With this intention, we had organised for the first time a national level ‘Gyan-Kumbh’ at Patanjali University of Haridwar in the month of November. Government will accommodate suggestions put forward in that event in Uttarakhand.


The situation at the Uttarakhand Technical University is no different than the GB Pant and Kumaun varsities. In 2012, then VC Dr Durg Singh Chauhan had resigned six months before the completion of his second tenure, citing excessive interference from IAS Rakesh Sharma, the then Additional Chief Secretary and departmental head of technical education in Secretariat. Chauhan was not only the founder Head of the Technical University of Uttarakhand, but also the founder VC of the Technical University of Uttar Pradesh.


Citing that higher and technical education has not been the main priority of any government, Chauhan says the interference in administrative work was not just bureaucratic, but also political in nature with an agenda to undermine the autonomy of universities in decision making. Adding that nothing changed even after he apprised the then Governor of the unwarranted interference, Chauhan says, “I had no option but to quit in such a situation.”


In another embarrassment for the Uttarakhand Technical University, vice-chancellor P K Garg was suspended by former governor Krishna Kant Paul over allegations of corruption in recruitment of varsity staff, and U S Rawat, who replaced Garg as VC was removed through a Nainital High Court order that questioned the procedure of his appointment.   


Even in the case of Doon University, which was set up as a center of excellence by late CM Narayan Dutt Tiwari in 2005, the state of affairs has been on the wane.


Seeking anonymity, a former Registrar of the University says that after the tenure of Tiwari, who was interested in making it a center of excellence, the focus and zeal to achieve has been missing.


Controversies haven’t left Uttarakhand Ayurved University, where sources say, the bid is to make an IAS official as the acting head of institution. Earlier, the state government had objected to Dr Mrityunjay Mishra’s appointment as Registrar, citing his suspected involvement in a financial scam at the university. He was suspended from the university this year and was subsequently jailed after vigilance department arrested him over alleged corruption charges on December 3, 2018 in Dehradun.


Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, the only Central University of Uttarakhand, located at Srinagar in Pauri Garhwal has been without permanent VC since a year, when Jawahar Lal Kaul, alleged of financial irregularities, was sacked by the President of India after recommendation of the HRD ministry in December, 2017. Although an IAS (retired), Yogendra Narain, was appointed as Chancellor of the University, the post is still helmed by an acting Head Professor Annapoorna Nautiyal.


Professor Shekhar Pathak, a Padma Shri awarded educationist who is known as encyclopedia of Uttarakhand, says the decline in academic status started after a separate state was carved. While the Universities Act gives them an autonomous status, the bureaucratic intervention in administration impacts their functioning negatively.


Agreeing that favouritism in university appointments exists to some extent, Pathak says ideological consideration in the selection of the head of the varsity is a serious issue as of now. “I myself took VRS  from the University of Kumaun four years prior to my retirement when I realized that nothing could be changed further in this scenario,” Pathak adds.

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