Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is having problems bearing the burden of decisions bequeathed to him by predecessor Arjun Singh who ran the ministry during the UPA’s first stint in power.
Before demitting office, Singh appointed vice-chancellors for all the 14 new central universities. He even exhausted 80 per cent of the minister’s discretionary quota of 1,200 admissions to Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) as the ex-officio chairman of the KV Sangathan.
Many new central universities have VCs but no buildings, land or faculties, said an official, who didn’t want to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“These universities were sanctioned by the previous government. Even before lands to house them could be identified, much less acquired from state governments, the VCs were selected and appointed,” he said.
Singh wasn’t available for his comments as he is abroad. But sources close to him said the appointments were valid. All VCs were selected from the shortlists prepared by ‘search committees’ appointed by the ministry.
The counter-view is that Singh, in doling out the largesse, has left no choice to Sibal but to accomplish the unenviable task of getting these institutes off the ground. “Whoever these VCs are and whatever good their talent, the new minister has to work with them,” said another official. He claimed at least two of the VCs were known for their proximity to Singh.
Sibal refused to speak on the issue. But he is reported to have set into motion systemic and structural changes to prevent recurrence of such aberrations.
A sample: plan to do away with the ministerial quota and that of MPs, who can recommend two students each year, for admissions to KVs.
The last day for admissions to KVs is July 31 and the minister’s office releases the seats in two batches in June and late July. Singh did not accept applications on the plea that as the model code of conduct was in place, parents should submit them to the new minister.
Consequently, Sibal was flooded with applications for admissions out of his quota within days of being appointed HRD minister.
Much to his chagrin, Sibal found that Singh had already filled 930 of the 1,200 seats.
Sources close to Singh insisted the seats weren’t filled while the model code was in force. They couldn’t explain why the outgoing minister did not leave the discretion to the new incumbent?
Be that as it may, needy students and parents who flocked Sibal’s office were shocked and the minister embarrassed for not being able to help them, an officer dealing with the subject said.
Meanwhile, All India Council of Technical Education — a ministry body in charge of approving private institutes in technical and business education — chairman A.R. Yadav, who enjoyed Singh’s backing, has been suspended in the wake of a CBI probe into allegations of corruption.
Sources, unwilling to be quoted, said action against Yadav and other officials was on the basis of the ongoing investigation. The new minister is careful not to invite any charge of persecution of people considered close to his predecessor.