Never imposed any condition on research subjects: HRD clarifies after controversy
After a controversy erupted over a Central University of Kerala circular which held that research should be carried out in accordance with “national priorities”, the HRD ministry on Monday sought to clarify that it had not issued any directive to restrict choice of subjects for research and emphasised that the government believes in the principle of freedom in research.
The University had in its circular said that following a meeting of vice chancellors in Shastri Bhawan in Delhi, where the HRD ministry is headquartered, certain decisions were taken which included discouraging research in irrelevant areas.
“When fellows are being admitted for PhDs, the topics for the thesis should be in accordance with the national priorities. Allotting privilege topics to the PhD students should be dispensed with,” the circular said.
It asked the varsity’s heads of departments to convene the meeting of the faculties and prepare a shelf of projects to be taken for research study pertaining to their subject considering national priorities. “The student can opt from the shelf of project(sic),” the circular added.
However, controversy erupted when Meena T Pillai, a professor at a Kerala state university, who also was on the board of studies of the Kerala Central University, protested the circular.
Pilllai quit the board of the central university claiming the move would curtail the freedom to carry out academic research.
“This, in a sense, sounds the death knell for free research in the country,” Pilllai said adding such “regulation” would not be followed in any university worth its name across the world.
“Automatically, it is a given that research is an area where people think freely. They have the right to critique, ask questions, they have the right dissent. What to study, how to study is the prerogative of the researcher. If you put strings on that no independent knowledge production would happen in the country,” she said.
Pillai asked one question was who would decide what is “national priorities”. Referring to the circular mentioning a “shelf of projects” she asked if it meant that you people in the 20s cannot decided the field of research they want to enter.
She said there was a need to have clarity or these kind of things can destroy the fabric of democracy and independent thought. “Knowledge cannot work in an atmosphere of fear,” Pillai said.
However, in a statement issued, the HRD ministry said that it had not imposed any restrictions on research.
“Last year, there was a meeting of Vice Chancellors of 11 Central Universities, which were lacking in research. In the said meeting they presented a road map to improve research and also discussed the issue of more research on issues relating to national priorities. The minutes of the meeting were recorded,” the ministry said.