An emeritus scientist, Dr SK Salwan, who closely worked with former President APJ Abdul Kalam under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, is among the 25 candidates being considered for the board of governors (BoG) chairmanship of the Punjab Technical University (PTU), it is learnt.
JK Anand, president, Anti Corruption Society, a Jalandhar-based NGO, had last year challenged in the high court that the appointment of then state chief secretary SC Agrawal as chairman was a blatant violation of the PTU act. Though the case is still pending in the court, the state government had recently initiated the process to appoint a new BoG chairman, this time, however, as per the law.
The government asked the PTU to advertise the chairman's post and forward the applications to the newly constituted search committee headed by the chief secretary. The committee recommendations would be approved by the minister concerned and the chief minister. Subsequently, the panel would be submitted to the chancellor.
Sources said the state government was seriously considering six names - Salwan; YS Rajan, former PTU vice-chancellor; Mukesh Munjal (Hero group); SK Munjal, joint managing director, Hero MotoCorp; RS Khandpur, director general of Pushpa Gujral Science City, Kapurthala; and SC Dhiman, chairman, Central Ground Water Board. The principals and chairpersons of a section of the PTU affiliated colleges had also applied for the post.
Salwan, a native of Chakk Sikender village in Amritsar, remained the PTU vice-chancellor for four years before joining a research chair at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, New Delhi, in 2008. A doctorate in mechanical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, Salwan was credited with developing PINAKA, a multi barrel rocket launcher capable of launching 72 rockets in a minute.
A close associate of Kalam, he was part of the team that developed Agni, Prithvi (nuclear warheads carrying capable missiles), Trishul, Akash and Nag missiles. Salwan, who taught for 15 years at prestigious defence institutes before being appointed the PTU vice-chancellor, is currently a BoG member.
Challenging the appointment, the petitioner had contended that the PTU act mandated that the chairman would be appointed by the chancellor-cum-Punjab Governor out of a panel of persons of national eminence in the field of industry, technology or technical education for a term of three years on the recommendations of the outgoing chairman of the Board of Governors; provided that the first board of governors was appointed by the state government. He would be eligible for reappointment for another term for the same period, the act said.
Though the BoG term expired on June 6, 2011, the chancellor, on the recommendations of the state government, constituted a new board on September 29, 2011. "The appointment of the chief secretary, who is neither a person of national eminence in the field of industry, technology or technical education, nor has been selected from a panel of such persons, is in complete violation of the statute and cannot be sustained," the petitioner contended.
"The chief secretary's appointment not only strikes at the autonomous character of the university but has been done primarily to appoint the government's man as the vice-chancellor," he said. "It is beyond the principles of natural justice to have the outgoing chairman recommend himself for fresh incumbency," he added.