Appointment of CPI(M) leader’s wife: Kerala guv seeks explanation from Kannur V-C
The governor is upset because of the political interference and nepotism in key posts in Kerala universities, sources close Raj Bhawan said
Amid a new stand-off between the Kerala government and governor Arif Mohammad Khan, the latter has sought an explanation from the Kannur University vice-chancellor over alleged irregularities in the appointment of Priya Varghese, the wife of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s private secretary KK Ragesh, as an associate professor in the Malayalam department.
People close to Raj Bhawan said the governor examined documents related to her appointment and found ‘shocking violation’ of the University Grants Commission norms; V-C Gopinath Ravindran has been asked to submit an explanation within 10 days.
The governor is upset because of the political interference and nepotism in key posts in Kerala universities, the sources said, adding that Khan plans to take strict action against the V-C.
Sensing trouble, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has asked its leaders not to make any comments on the issue.
On Monday, Khan refused to sign 11 ordinances calling it ‘against the spirit of democracy’, and asked the government to bring legislations in the assembly. “We are not for any confrontation with the governor,” Left Democratic Front convenor EP Jayarajan clarified.
A controversy erupted last November when Varghese was awarded first rank in an interview held for the recruitment of an associate professor, allegedly bypassing more experienced and qualified teachers.
There was an allegation that the V-C’s four-year term was extended as a reward for facilitating the appointment of the CPI (M) leader’s wife. Though the governor expressed serious reservations over giving an extension to the Kannur V-C, the government reportedly pressurised him to sign the re-appointment order promising that there would not be any political interference in varsity administration.
Last year, the Save University Campaign committee, a whistleblower in the higher education sector, wrote several petitions to the governor pointing out ‘too many political appointments’ bypassing eligible candidates.
As per UGC guidelines, the required qualification for an associate professor is a PhD degree and eight years’ teaching experience. However, the campaign Committee claimed that Varghese had only one-month teaching experience after getting her PhD.
Last April, the Kerala high court quashed the appointment of party legislator AN Shamseer’s wife Shahala as the assistant professor in Kannur University after one of the candidates approached court. “Politics is the only criteria for appointments in varsities these days. Often, experienced and more qualified are bypassed in the process,” said campaign committee leader RS Sasi Kumar.
Gopinath was re-appointed for a period of four years in November after the government issued a notification and appointed a selection committee to choose a new V-C. The government allegedly insisted on his re-appointment, for which higher education minister R Bindhu also wrote a letter to the governor.
Last December, Khan sent a strongly-worded letter to the Vijayan, in which the governor said he was really pained over “dipping standard” of higher education in the state and blamed “brazen political interference” for it.