Managing the politically charged Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for five years without once calling the police into the campus ranks as his biggest source of satisfaction as he packs his bags, said the outgoing vice-chancellor BB Bhattacharya.
Seated amid half-filled cartons in his office, waiting for the call to vacate his workplace of five years, Bhattacharya spoke to the Hindustan Times about his achievements and challenges — peppered with advice for his successor.
“What makes me happiest is that I was never gheraod by students and never had to call the police into the campus. This is something unique in the history of JNU,” Bhattacharya said, as he got up to pull out of a packed bag a cartoon poster in which the students had compared him to Hitler.
“This is my one takeaway from here,” he said laughing.
Bhattacharya’s term ended earlier this year and the HRD ministry has recommended geneticist SK Sopory as his successor. The President of India is expected to appoint Bhattacharya’s successor any day.
Since he took over in 2004 from his predecessor GK Chadha, Bhattacharya has increased the number of students covered by fellowships to 90%. Today, almost 98% students have hostel accommodation, said Bhattacharya. The library is digitised, and students can access online journals that JNU subscribes to. All teachers have laptops.
Under a scheme started by Bhattacharya, science teachers receive additional grants of Rs 10 lakh apart from Rs 5 lakh as seed money. Humanities teachers receive grants of Rs 3 lakh and seed money of Rs 1 lakh.
Existing classrooms and schools were renovated, and new schools and hostels started. “The first time I walked through the schools on joining, I realised how dirty the toilets were. Cleaning them was my first priority,” Bhattacharya laughed.
Generators were purchased to ensure that academic activity does no suffer due to the power cuts that plague Delhi in summers.
“Water shortage was a massive problem during summers. I came up with a project under which we today receive water round-the-clock,” Bhattacharya said.
But Bhattacharya has faced massive criticism too — from students, teachers and
even sections of the government who were against his decision not to implement reservations in direct entry to professor posts.
“I have no regrets. But it is true that the reservation issue gave them (critics) an opportunity to attack,” he said. His critics have accused him of caste bias, but Bhattacharya insists he did what he felt was best for JNU.
Bhattacharya said he would advise his successor to stick to his convictions and not look for compromise solutions. “Dissent is good. But the final call rests with the CEO.
“If you try to please everyone in JNU, you end up nowhere,” he said.