'Govt doesn’t want me to continue as Nalanda University chancellor'

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 20, 2015 13:52 IST

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said he will not continue as the chancellor of Bihar’s Nalanda University after July this year accusing the government of blocking his second term, reports said on Friday.

In a five-page letter to the governing board of the university, Sen writes that he is excluding himself out of a second term in the post, despite the governing board unanimously voting to elect him on January 13.

Sen writes the Visitor, President Pranab Mukherjee, has not been able to give his nod to the board’s decision because of the absence of government’s approval.

“As board members are aware, our visitor — President Pranab Mukherjee — has always taken a deep personal interest in the speedy progress of the work of Nalanda University, and given that, we have to assume that something makes it difficult — or impossible — for him to act with speed in this matter,” Sen says.

"Non-action is a time-wasting way of reversing a Board decision, when the Government has, in principle, the power to act or not act," Sen writes.

"It is hard for me not to conclude that the Government wants me to cease being the Chancellor of Nalanda University after this July, and technically it has the power to do so," he writes.

He also criticises the political interference of the government in academic matters in his letter.

“I am also sad, at a more general level, that academic governance in India remains so deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling Government, when it chooses to make political use of the special provisions. Even though the Nalanda University Act, passed by the Parliament, did not, I believe, envisage political interference in academic matters, it is formally the case – given the legal provisions (some of them surviving from colonial days) - that the Government can turn an academic issue into a matter of political dispensation, if it feels unrestrained about interfering.”

Sen points out the government’s indifference as well as interference in the running of the university in the past.

"This, as you might recollect, also happened to the revised Statutes that the Governing Board passed unanimously last year. Many of these Statutes (including the one pertaining to the Chancellor’s term of office) also never received formal acceptance or rejection from the Ministry of External Affairs, which had the role of coordinating with the Visitor’s office."

"... The Governing Board was kept completely in the dark about an attempted unilateral move by the Government to rapidly reconstitute the entire Board, and to do this in violation of some of parts of the Nalanda University Act (reflected especially in the letters that have already been sent out to foreign governments, departing from the provisions of the Act as it now stands)."

He says he has written the letter with a "heavy heart since re-establishing Nalanda has been a life-long commitment for me" and is "using this occasion to publicly communicate that I shall do whatever I can over the remaining time I have, though the leadership of the long-run planning of Nalanda has, obviously, to come from someone else".

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