'UGC asks institutions to put up banners thanking PM for free vaccination'
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all universities, colleges and technical institutions to put up banners thanking Prime Minister Modi for "starting free vaccination for 18 years and above age group", sources said Monday.
The revised guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month came into effect on Monday. Under these guidelines, those aged 18 and above are eligible for free vaccination.
In a WhatsApp message sent to various university officials Sunday, UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain also asked the institutions to share the banners on their social media pages.
While he did not respond to calls seeking his comments, officials of at least three universities confirmed having received the "directive".
"The Government of India is starting free vaccination for 18 years and above age group from tomorrow--21st June, 2021. In this regard, universities and colleges are requested to kindly display these hoardings and banners in their institutions.
"The approved design (creatives) of hoardings and banners in Hindi and English, as provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, are attached for your ready reference," reads Jain's purported text message.
The poster has a picture of the Prime Minister with "Thank you PM Modi" written on it.
Institutions such as Delhi University, Hyderabad University, LNCT University in Bhopal, Bennett University, Northcap University in Gurgaon, among others shared the banners on their social media pages with hashtag "ThankyouModiji".
The move drew sharp reactions from several quarters including academicians, student bodies and politicians.
Swaraj India President and former UGC member Yogendra Yadav said on Twitter, "As a former member of the UGC, I am mortified. Things were rotten at the UGC even then (2010-12), but such servility was unimaginable. Everyday, we discover a new low."
Delhi University Professor and former Executive Council member Rajesh Jha said, "This is unprecedented. Universities cannot be used for propaganda of the government.
"Universities are not extended arms of the government that they can be used for such things. By tweeting something from the official handle, Delhi University is projecting a single opinion which is not the scenario since there are differing opinions and viewpoints within the university," he said.
His views were echoed by Abha Dev Habib of Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), who alleged institutions are being used to run propaganda for the PM.
In a Facebook post, she said free vaccination is a right, funded by the taxpayers’ money, and any delay in rolling it out is a blame the government cannot escape.
"UGC demanding real relief in terms of compensation, death gratuity and scholarship for students... nothing on that. We have written for development of medical facilities to the MoH... nothing on that. Ok is a Poster as a virus to overwrite all of that!" she said.
JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) Secretary Moushumi Basu said, "Why does it always have to be about the Prime Minister? Even the vaccination certificates have his mugshot. Isn't it our right to be vaccinated for free after all the mess that they have created?
"Even if we have to thank, why can't we thank the healthcare workers. To be told by the UGC how we have to thank is just not done. There is certainly a problem. It is all quite bizarre."
DU professor Hansraj Suman said, "It is quite condemnable. No other government has used an autonomous body like the UGC for its propaganda. Instead of using money for such government promotion, that money can be used to give mobile phones to students who are facing difficulties in accessing online classes."
Earlier in the day, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had alleged that the Centre government is putting pressure on officials in Delhi to issue advertisements thanking the Prime Minister for free COVID-19 vaccines.
Neeraj Kundan, the national president of the Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India, said, "It is hilarious that students haven't yet been vaccinated and they are being asked to thank our PM. Students would have been thankful had the government announced fee waivers or student loan waivers for them."
"Instead, many students have lost an entire academic year and their foreign university prospects have been affected since students were not vaccinated on time. Even after all this, the government is thinking about its promotion, which is a joke," he said.
Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union vice president Saket Moon alleged, "The government is trying to use the situation for its propaganda which is not good."