Students of the Pondicherry University on Monday intensified their week-long strike for the removal of their vice-chancellor over alleged academic frauds.
The students allege that the vice-chancellor, Chandra Krishnamurthy was involved in "serious academic frauds" and that she caused "administrative chaos" at the varsity.
The continuing strike has paralysed the functioning of one of the major Central universities in the country.
The strike started on July 27 by the Pondicherry University Students Movement (PUSM), a non-political student association of the students, now has support from across the political spectrum.
“ The VC has ruined the university in two years,” alleged Dr. N Dastagiri Reddy, secretary, Pondicherry University Teacher’s Association (PUTA).
According to an RTI obtained last year from the HRD ministry by an activist named P Raghupathy, the VC was appointed without following statutory norms. The previous government forwarded only her name to the President, leaving out other candidates.
A Central university is established under a parliamentary act, and a vice chancellor is appointed by the President.
The teacher's association members alleged that documents available with them show that she plagiarised her books and academic papers and that she did not have the mandatory ten year experience needed to be a vice chancellor.
For students, the major concerns are the falling academic standards and lack of hostels, classrooms, and commuting facilities in the 780- acre campus.
“The hostels are crowded now. Eight students stay in a hostel room that was supposed to accommodate only two. The electric buses stopped running months ago. The library has made no purchases over the last two years,” said a student who did not want to be named.
“Though the former VC made plans for two big hostels and laid foundation stones, she stopped the funds and diverted it to something else. Accommodation is a big issue here. Many students from other states didn’t join this year because of this,” said Reddy.
The university has fallen drastically in academic standards, from one of the top ten in the country to lower 60s, in the recent past. Chandra Krishnamurthy was appointed as the vice chancellor in 2013.
HT tried to contact the vice chancellor twice, but there was no response. Also, she did not reply to a detailed email questionnaire on these allegations.
The varsity, however, rubbished all the charges and said that the student’s body that was carrying out the agitation was not recognised
“The students should return to classes and concentrate on studies instead,” varsity registrar-in-charge S Panneerselvam said in a recent statement.
On the allegations over the vice chancellor’s credentials , the case was pending in the High Court and the VC has faith in the judiciary, the registrar said.
PUTA hoped action would be taken against the vice chancellor by the union HRD minister. Though they have sent more than 15 letters to the ministry over the past 8 months, no action has been taken yet, the teacher’s body said.
The protest was peaceful, except on the fifth day, when several students were injured in a police lathi-charge. A case was registered against a faculty member – who the students call ‘pro-VC’—for allegedly beating up a girl student.
A student spokesperson said that the Congress, BJP, and left parties have given their support to the strike.
“We want quality better education and don’t want our future to be in trouble. So we won’t stop unless she steps down,” said a student.