The report of the Vice Chancellors’ Committee on restructuring the functioning of the State’s universities is being implemented on Tuesday – Teacher’s Day — amid hope and cynicism. Hopes: Governor and Chancellor Dr Balram Jakhar is assertive on changing the face of universities through the reforms recommended in the report. And cynicism: the State Government is still dithering on some of the proposals.
Dr Jakhar is not the first MP Governor to wield the groom for campus cleaning. His illustrious predecessors like SN Sinha, KM Chandi and Dr Bhai Mahavir had tried their hands, although without much success.
An impatient reformist, Dr Mahavir had a vision for change in MP’s universities but failed. His vision betrayed a political agenda and that was why then CM Digvijay Singh could stymie his mission. Dr Mahavir might have blocked the bill that sought to curtail the Chancellor’s powers, but the victory proved pyrrhic.
A seasoned politician, Dr Jakhar has introduced reforms in universities with due care. He watched the plight of universities and assessed the factors ailing them. The report of the committee on ‘Administrative restructuring of MP State Universities for their efficient functioning’ has noted in the first paragraph: “the Chancellor has always been emphasising that there is an urgent need to review the functioning of the universities to make them responsive to the needs of changing times and make them efficient in dealing with matters both academic and administrative”.
But he waited till he had won the trust of all vice chancellors, most of whom are his appointees. Little wonder then he is all praise for them. “Most of our V-Cs are doing good job.” The Chancellor then saw to it that his plan did not spark a political row. So he eschewed much-reviled phrases like de-toxification or de-saffronisation of campuses.
The Governor has taken a politically correct stance vis-à-vis reforms — “I want students of MP to excel”. Who will risk disputing that?
The Governor showed caution and adopted a middle path on the removal of Devi Ahilya University V-C Dr CS Chadda. He removed Chadda and the CM shunted out registrar Parikshit Singh. The V-C and the registrar were at loggerheads on financial matters for quite some time. The V-C-registrar tussle must have given an impetus to the reform process. The DAVV has seen three V-Cs in 30 months, the Vikram University three in 10 years and Gour University six in a decade.
Now see the speed with which the report on the reforms was readied. A four-member committee was constituted on July 1; it gave its report on August 5; the report was endorsed by the University Coordination Committee’s standing committee on August 18 and it was ready for implementation with due approval from the Law department on September 1. And four days later, the reforms get rolling.
The Governor did not confront the government on whether the report needed a bill for implementation. His steering role on reforms is awe-inspiring for the government. The CM does not consider it wise to take up the Governor’s gauntlet. After the Ujjain incident, a beleaguered Chouhan is more wary of ruffling the Governor’s feathers. Since the Sangh Parivar is silent on the reforms, the CM does not feel the compulsion to react.
The report marks only a beginning of the reform process. The Governor views the report as a “preamble”. This means more reports might be in the offing and they might deal with depoliticisation of campuses. The report hinted at it. “It is observed that there is an increase in interference from politicians, local leaders and student leaders.
It may not be an exaggeration if it is stated that many persons in universities have some sort of political connection and therefore, corrective action is strongly blunted. This has given rise to certain amount of indiscipline in all cadres.” The report has no solution to the shortage of regular teachers. It only says: “Due to shortage of staff, process by which posts are created is cumbersome.”
In Dr Hari Singh Gour University, only 182 teachers are working against the sanctioned strength of 350. In Jiwaji University 40 percent of the sanctioned posts are filled.
While the report has not touched upon some core issues, it has done some loud thinking. “Suppose we could provide education as excellent as provided in USA and UK, the outflow of foreign exchange could be used for enhancing our resources and research competence.”
The premise of the report is that “in the present context students are our customers”. It stresses greater teacher-student interactions wherein teacher’s role would be more of a facilitator. Idealisation of scholarly teachers and efficient management is another feature of the report. It calls also for private participation in and vocalisation of education for self-financing.
However, the grand vision conjured up in the report could be reduced to ‘sweet nothing’ in the absence of adequate financing. The report avoids asking for money to fulfil the dream project. Here lies the catch. The government controls the purse strings. Any reform without the government’s endorsement is bound to face financial problems.
Given the scenario, the state government would prefer registrars to deal with financial and administrative matters. What will the VC-appointed professor/registrar do? Notwithstanding VCs’ powers to write registrars’ CRs, the tussle between the two heads could not be avoided if the government is sceptical of the reforms. Agitated registrars might ensure that the reforms did not win the government’s trust.
With inputs from Sagar (Rajesh Thakur), Ujjain (Sandeep Vatsa), Gwalior (Umesh Singh) and Indore (Aditya Singh Parmar)
Varsity officers fume at curbs on powers
State University Service (SUS) officers, especially registrars, are up in arms against the report’s recommendation of three new posts equivalent to that of registrar. The posts are controller of examination, finance controller/adviser and a co-registrar.
The report recommends that a vice chancellor may designate a professor/director appointed for the three posts as registrar.
According to Raj Bhavan, creation of these posts comes within the powers of the Chancellor. But Higher Education Minister Tukoji Rao Pawar insists on a bill in the Assembly for the purpose.
Registrars are unhappy with the recommendation empowering the V-C to write their confidential reports. The SUS officers are not willing to buy the Governor’s assurance that new posts would not curtail their powers. “Giving administrative work to teachers would hamper academics and mess up administration,” says Dr B Bharti, general secretary of MP University Officers Association.
Vikram University registrar MK Rai says the V-Cs’ Committee was not an executive body but an advisory one. “Creation of new posts could only be done by amending the MP Universities Act, 1973 through the legislature.”
Barkatullah University V-C Prof. RS Sirohi argues that the Act provides for making changes in statutes related to duties and responsibilities of SUS officers. His Vikram University counterpart Ram Rajesh Mishra says that it is time to get rid of the 50-year- old clerical management system and introduce efficient financing .
SUS officers say professors could not effectively deal with financial and administrative matters. But Governor’s Secretary Bhupal Singh doesn’t see merit in this logic. “A professor can handle finance and administration after training and exposure to the new assignment. Don’t we the IAS officers take up specialized tasks like finance secretary or treasury commissioner? If we can manage specialised jobs , professors can do that too,” he told HT.
However, Principal Secretary, Higher Education Bhagirath Prasad insisted that delegation of registrar’s powers is contentious.
Study material of report
On July 1, the committee was formed with four members — Barkatullah University V-C RS Sirohi as chairman, Dr Hari Singh Gour University V-C Dr DP Singh as member , MP Bhoj (Open) University V-C Dr Kamlakar Singh as member and Additional Secretary to Governor Omesh Mundra as convener. The committee held discussions with other V-Cs, some important academic and allied institutions and prominent academicians and administrators associated with universities.
It held a round table conference of V-Cs at APS University in Rewa on July 20. The committee studied acts, statutes, ordinances, regulations and reports on education including Radhakrishnan Commission, Kothari Commission and National Policy for Education.