Row over UGC directive to put up banners thanking PM for vaccines
As the Centre took over the sourcing and supplying Covid-19 vaccines from Monday, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all universities and colleges across the country to put up posters thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the free jabs, drawing criticism from a section of teachers who termed it as “politicisation” of the vaccination drive.
In an email sent to universities and colleges on Sunday, the commission said, “The Government of India is starting free vaccination for 18 years and above age group from tomorrow, i.e. 21st June 2021. In this regard Universities and Colleges are requested to kindly display these hoardings/banners in their institutions. The approved design (creatives) of hoardings/banners in Hindi and English, as provided by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, are attached for your ready reference.”
The approved design for banners, shared by the UGC in the email, carried the message “Thank you PM Modi” both in English and Hindi. Several colleges in the Delhi University (DU) on Monday confirmed receiving the email from the commission.
Despite several attempts, UGC secretary Rajnish Jain did not answer calls. He also did not respond to text messages.
On June 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre would be in charge of sourcing and supplying vaccines. It would, he added, buy 75% of locally available vaccines, with the remainder being reserved for private hospitals. And it would bear the cost of the entire 75%, he added.
A principal of a north campus DU college, who asked not to be named, said, “We have received these sample posters to create vaccine awareness among the youth. The UGC had also sent an email to ensure educational institutions complied with the order.”
DU put up the banners outside the South Campus on Monday and tweeted photos on its official handle. DU Registrar Vikas Gupta, however, said they had voluntarily decided to put up the posters to create awareness among students and denied receiving any email from the UGC.
“The banners were put up to create awareness among the students. There were no directions from the UGC regarding this,” Gupta said.
Jamia Millia Islamia registrar Nazim Husain Al-Jafri confirmed receiving directions from the UGC. “We will get the posters and banners printed by tomorrow and install them at different places on the university campus,” he said.
A section of teachers said it was a purely “political move”. Rajesh Jha, an associate professor at DU and former member of the university’s executive council, said, “At a time when the educational institutions have been struggling managing their finances, there is no money to renew our journals and get our laboratory equipment, the UGC is asking colleges to put up posters. What is the need for it? Universities and colleges are not meant for propagating the political agenda of the government.”
Abha Dev Habib, member of the DU teachers’ association (DUTA), said, “For the past 6-7 years educational institutions have been used for propagating government agendas. This is nothing but another such propaganda. There has been no announcement of gratuities for those who lost their lives to Covid, or scholarships for students considering the hardships they have faced amid the pandemic. But the government is trying to whitewash all the suffering people have witnessed.”