By Shishir Tripathi
It isn’t just students who are getting it from the BJP. The party has decided to badger the vice-chancellors of all Indian central universities as well. Union Human Resources Development minister Smriti Irani today roundly lambasted the 42 VCs gathered at a closed-door meeting in Surajkund, Haryana on Thursday, during which she scolded, castigated and played headmistress to some of the country’s senior-most academics. As part of her tirade, Irani ticked off a few VCs who fell asleep during the proceedings and ordered a faculty member to leave the hall for attempting to click her picture.
The three universities that are in the news – JNU, Jadavpur and Hyderabad – were among those present.
Irani delivered a 30-minute soliloquy that doubled as a harangue – she demanded that the VCs emerge from their “comfortable cocoons” and “do what you are expected to do”. The minister snapped at the academics for keeping “posts vacant on the pretext that eligible candidates [to those positions]”.
“Remember you are at the mercy of tax payers’ money. Do not enjoy this as a fully tax-free paid holiday,” she scolded those in the conference hall. “Search your soul when you go back from here and appraise your own work.” Most vice chancellors were taken aback at being admonished like school-going children.
That this day-long session, organised to address gender-sensitisation and revision of academic curricula, would turn into an extended exercise in the HRD minister reprimanding educationists who run some of the country’s premier institutions became apparent early in the day, when a member of the faculty that organised the event attempted to take Irani’s picture. The minister ordered the (unidentified) man to leave the hall. Later, when proceedings began and the minister discovered that a few VCs had fallen asleep during University Grants Commission chairman Ved Prakash’s speech, she thundered: “How could you doze off in the midst of an important meeting and teach people discipline?”
Irani then demanded to know what exactly the VCs did for a living and how many times they had involved themselves in revising university curricula. The minister switched from the stuff of text books to the running of universities, alluding to the recent dismissal of Visva-Bharti University VC, Sushanta Dattagupta, the first ever sacking of the head of a central university. “Don’t become the VC just to get a lal batti (red beacon) fitted on top of your car,” she told those assembled.
Sources who were present told Firstpost the VCs received her censure meekly, and remained subservient throughout.