People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 39

September 25, 2011




“Ambience of

Education is Disturbed”


From Our Special

Correspondent in Kolkata



THE attack on the education system in West Bengal under the new regime has begun to take its toll. Vice chancellors of Burdwan and Vidyasagar universities have resigned from their posts due to deteriorating situation in their institutions.  Burdwan VC, Subrata Pal, sent his resignation to the university chancellor, governor, M K Narayanan on September 20. Days before him, Vidyasagar University VC, Nanda Dulal Paria, sent his resignation to the chancellor.


After the TMC-Congress combine came to power in West Bengal, the government seemed hell bent upon to derail the democratic education governance evolved in the state in the last three decades. A so-called ‘advisory committee’, consisting of professed pro-TMC people, was formed and their whips started to be imposed on the elected and legally formed governing councils and boards of higher education. The governor issued a notification banning all recruitments, promotions and even taking any important decisions by senates, syndicates, executive councils and vice chancellors. In many universities, even routine work was jeopardised.


Apart from that, direct interventions by TMC leaders and ministers in running the institutions grew to unsustainable proportions.


Such a trouble broke out in Burdwan University over science and technology minister Rabi Ranjan Chattopadhyay's advisory to the VC to act in consultation with some of his trusted lieutenants in the university, who were TMC leaders.


In his letter to the chancellor, VC of Burdwan expressed his dismay over the deteriorating academic atmosphere in the university. "I find with utter dismay that over the last several months, the general environment has become more and more inhospitable for an academic person to discharge the duty of a vice-chancellor," he said in his resignation letter.


Pal had expected things to shape up after the new coalition took over. "But it didn't. Instead it got worse with a number of committees formed without addressing the problems," the VC said. He also pointed at non-cooperation from certain quarters in the university as also from the higher education minister Bratya Basu. In fact, incidents of TMC ruffians entering the university and attacking students, officers, abusing teachers have become regular.


In Rabindrabharati University, situated in Tagore’s ancestral home, TMC activists have already ransacked offices, manhandled teachers , beaten up SFI students. They have demanded that their list should be followed for entrance. RBU teachers have unitedly protested against anarchy.


In Vidyasagar university , TMC leaders are forcing their fatwas to be followed. "I do not wish to continue as vice chancellor. I sent my papers in the first week of August to the chancellor. There has been no communication thereafter from the governor's house. I will no longer be able to continue in office due to personal reasons," said VC  Nanda Dulal  Paria.


In an unprecedented move, the government has decided to remove the existing members of the executive council of the Presidency university. The members of the Council are academicians with impeccable record of academic excellence like Professors Amiya Bagchi (Director, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata), Mushirul Hassan (Director, National Archives of India), Bikash Sinha (Ex-Director, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics), Shankar Pal (Ex-Director, Indian Statistical Institute), Suranjan Das (Vice-Chancellor, University of Calcutta), P N Ghosh (Vice-Chancellor, Jadavpur University) and some others. The members of this committee were not even informed of the decision by the government. They came to know of it through the media.

The executive council was nominated by the erstwhile Left Front government to carry forward the academic activities of Presidency, which was given university status by the government recently. After coming to power, Mamata Banerjee constituted another committee called the Mentor group (which is not a statutory body), to advise the university, headed by Professor  Sugata Bose and with Professor Amartya Sen as the advisor. Professor Amartya Sen had opined that the Mentor group should act in collaboration with the executive council. However, the government decided to dissolve the existing executive council and convert the Mentor group into the executive council to deal with the differences that arose.


Several questions have been raised about the decision. Firstly, the government has insulted senior academicians of the state and the country by removing them from the Council without consulting them at any level. Secondly, it is also being said that the academicians have been removed from the council, since they were appointed by the Left Front government. This is nothing but TMC’s  vendetta politics. The members of the council have the highest level of academic excellence. They were in the council in their own right and not because of any political affiliation. Thirdly, the members of the Mentor group are mainly NRIs or live outside the state. To run a university, it is imperative that the vice chancellor and the council interact frequently. If the members of the Mentor group (who subsequently will be the council) are not living in the state, it will be difficult to run the university and will adversely affect teaching and research in the university.


What is at stake here is the prestige and academic future of Presidency university. The government in its narrow partisanship and short-sightedness is gambling with the future of the university and insulting senior intellectuals. This only shows the political intent of the government, which is averse to evolving a consensus on such important matters.