DU-UGC standoff: VC doesn't resign but bitter fight with NDA govt just starting

Delhi University Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh changed his mind on Tuesday, first announcing his resignation but then despatching Madhu Kishwar to speak on his behalf and state otherwise. His chosen spokesperson levelled several charges against the UGC about pressuring him to fall in line.

The unfolding drama had two immediate outcomes – those happily celebrating his exit turned into an angry lot and second, the focus of attention shifted temporarily from the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) to a personality issue.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

If Singh is looking for a martyr’s halo, for going from being an academic administrator of India’s topmost university to the one sacrificed at the altar of a new ideologically conflicting NDA regime, he has not succeeded. Stray voices of support from former Congress ministers Manish Tewari and Salman Khursheed have not helped him at this stage. A hunger strike by a handful of loyalist teachers, that too in front of his own office, has not evoked sympathies within or outside the campus. Parents and students have in any case been hassled with the FYUP. The honours degrees at the undergraduate level had turned into the more stylish sounding FYUP but with no substance or application of mind. Students' families incurred one year’s additional costs in living in tenancy and the tuition too, for thousands of students, was an issue. But neither the parents, nor the students could grudge it. They had to take it what the university offered.

In any case, Dinesh Singh may not have resigned yet and may have decided to hold on to his chair for some more time but the ongoing standoff with the UGC does not leave the VC with many options. With single-minded determination, he had overruled all forms of dissent in getting the FYUP implemented last year and had been stubbornly resisting the UGC’s diktat to return to the three-year degree course. With an unrelenting HRD minister Smiriti Irani (though for the record she has steered clear of the controversy) and a determined UGC, acting with a renewed vigour as if it were injected with some booster dose, Singh can’t for much longer use the plea of DU's autonomy, increasingly seen as the VC's autocracy.

The rival teachers' group is claiming that he is now being guided on his future course of action by a senior leader and former minister with whom he had been closely interacting during the UPA regime, also the one who supported him in implementation of FYUP in the first place. For the record, another Congress leader Manish Tewari termed his resignation as “unfortunate” and said the NDA government-inspired UGC was “trampling” upon “autonomy” of an institution such as Delhi University. The Congress affiliated teachers association in the university is supportive of him in FYUP but sensing the popular mood, the Congress's student wing NSUI is now actively opposed to it.

Dinesh Singh's last recourse, to seek judicial intervention to fight the Ministry of Human Resources under Smriti Irani, almost boomeranged on him when the Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition seeking to stay the UGC notification scrapping the four-year undergraduate programme. The petition was filed by teachers having close allegiance to Dinesh Singh but the apex court asked the petitioners to approach the High Court first.

The hunger strike by his loyalist teachers fizzled out too. The FYUP, which proved to be overwhelmingly unpopular and ill-designed to supposedly suit the American educational pattern, is now out from DU. The course correction will follow in the next few days and the first cut-off lists for admission in various undergraduate course should be out early next week.

Sources said Singh’s resignation may settle the controversy on FYUP but it could just be the beginning of a series of other controversies he may find himself mired in, some of which may end with institution of inquiries. In the Delhi University teachers' circle, Singh has for long been accused of playing the casteist card and of crony politics at various levels of decision-making and in appointments. Their veracity could not be independently established but these allegations have been flowing, more so that his resignation is being discussed. That of course could not be a subject of investigation but then there are other charges against him that are being looked into, a source said.

The most obvious one could be diversion of funds, the Rs 172 crore given by the UGC for expansion of logistical strength in university and colleges for OBC reservation was used to buy 62000 laptops for distribution among students enrolled in FYUP last year. The revelation was made in response to an RTI application filed by Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) joint secretary Raju Rawat and DU teacher Amitav Chakraborty. The university administration had so far defended the move and justified the diversion of funds by claiming that the laptops are the property of the colleges concerned and have been provided to colleges for offering educational resources and upgraded IT infrastructure to all categories of students - including OBC, SC/ST and general category students.

Ironically, Singh was awarded the Padmashri by the UPA government. Delhi University’s website on FYUP displayed a news item on his felicitation by University College Cork (UCC), Ireland, for his “transformative role in modernising higher education” and award of a DSc (Degree of Doctor of Science).

Some teachers are hoping that the Visitor of the University, President Pranab Mukherjee, intervenes. In case Singh finally chooses to resign, the President’s role come into play for designating someone as acting VC till the designated search committee selects a panel of names for appointment of a VC. If Singh continues, the fight between him and the UGC/HRD ministry will get only more bitter, affecting the future of thousands of students.


Updated Date: Jun 25, 2014 08:35 AM

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