Bihar: Govt-Chancellor showdown further harming higher education

Amid the war of words, universities continue to stare at uncertainly in less than a month when six of them will have vacancy for the VC’s post

Raj Bhavan Govt Faceoff

Patna: Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s meeting with governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar at the Raj Bhawan on Wednesday, triggered speculations that the continuing showdown between the government and the Raj Bhawan following separate advertisements by both of them for appointment of vice-chancellors could finally end, as it did more than a decade ago under similar situations.

Though there was no communication from the government regarding the outcome or purpose of the meeting, a short statement with photograph of Kumar and Arlekar issued by the Raj Bhawan said the two discussed higher education and the issues concerning the universities to resolve them.

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Normally, the information and public relations department is prompt in issuing Press Release even for small events, but in this case it did not. On Thursday, as media speculations grew, after JD-U spokesman Neeraj Kumar said it was a courtesy visit by the CM, as he respects the Constitutional bodies.

BJP was quick to retort. Leader of opposition Vijay Kumar Sinha said that Nitish Kumar had a habit of undermining Constitutional authorities, while state BJP president Samrat Choudhary attributed the showdown to governor being a Dalit, “Nitish Kumar was trying to humiliate him”.

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The war of words escalated further, when JD-U state president Umesh Kushwaha said the BJP, which did not even invite Dalit President to the inauguration of the new Parliament, had no right to speak about Dalits.

Amid the war of words, universities continue to stare at uncertainly in less than a month when six of them will have vacancy for the VC’s post. The present incumbents are nearing the end of their three-year term and the Raj Bhawan has already restrained them from taking any policy decision or decisions having financial implications.

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The last date for applying to Raj Bhawan’s advertisements is also ending in two days. However, the last date for applying to the advertisements given by the government is September 13. Which advertisement is valid, perhaps it will be clear only through court or if one of the issuing authorities backs out.

Hitherto, the Raj Bhawan has been advertising the vacancies. The Raj Bhawan continued with the same procedure and a large number of applications have also been received for the post of VCs in Patna University, Lalit Narayan Mithila University (Darbhanga), Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Bihar University (Muzaffarpur), Jai Prakash University (Chapra), BN Mandal University (Madhepura) and Aryabhatta Knowledge University (Patna).

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The process at present Irving followed by the Raj Bhawan is the same which was adopted in 2014 to appoint VCs in 10 universities in keeping with the 2013 Supreme Court order, which upheld the Patna High Court quashing the appointment of all Bihar VCs after a showdown between the state government and the Raj Bhawan.

The process made provision for search committee, in keeping with the SC directives, and necessary amendments were made in the Bihar state universities Act, 1976 and the Patna University Act, 1976. It also made provision of “meaningful and effective consultation between the Governor and the CM on the panel of names submitted by the search committees”, which started being followed during all the appointments made to the highest academic position in the state.

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However, a decade later, the matter has again escalated. Experts attribute it to power tussle to control universities. But for the beleaguered state universities in Bihar, which is functioning at barely 40% of the sanctioned teaching strength and is mostly crippled due to late academic sessions, erratic classes, delayed salary payment and poor infrastructure, such indecision and showdown will only do more harm, especially at a time when the governor had set a deadline to all of them to adopt choice based credit system (CBCS), semester system and the new education policy to align with the rest of the country.

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