The fate of 73,912 students in the Gauhati University hangs in balance due to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) alleging that the university allowed unapproved courses to be run, and collected fees to the tune of Rs 39.06 crore for these courses.
The institution on Wednesday in an executive council meeting removed two former Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL) directors Kandarpa Das and Ashok Kumar Bora, and incumbent director Amit Choudhury from all administrative responsibilities. However, they can continue with their teaching responsibilities. IDOL is at the centre of the allegations as it allegedly conducted 21 courses without the requisite approval.
Choudhury was removed by the executive council to ensure an impartial investigation into the matter.
A high-level seven-member internal committee appointed by the vice-chancellor to probe into the matter was also approved by the council. Parallel to the internal probe panel, retired chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Aftab Hussain Saikia will also independently conduct an inquiry into the matter.
Following the damning CAG report that was placed in the Assam Assembly accusing Gauhati University of running unapproved courses through IDOL, Vice-Chancellor Pratap Jyoti Handique on Monday had appointed a committee to probe into the matter.
The Assam Assembly is currently holding its Winter Session.
Handique made it clear that former IDOL director Das will be placed under investigation and assured of stringent consequences if Das is found guilty. However, Das could not be contacted as the former dean has been continuously evading the media.
Handique had said on Monday "I have not spoken to him yet, but I wish to bring him directly under investigation and this committee will look into the matter from 3 December onwards. I have already formed a seven-member investigation committee to look into the matter. This committee will thoroughly investigate the matter raised in the CAG report. If the allegations are found to be true, we will initiate proper action."
The IDOL under Gauhati University initially got approval for offering eight courses for three academic years from 2010-11 to 2012-13, "based on recommendations of the joint committee comprising the UGC, DEC and the All India Council for Technical Education."
The audit observed that "IDOL, GU had offered 21 unapproved courses beyond the approved eight courses through ODL (open and distance learning) mode during the year 2010-11 to 2016-17."
In its report, the auditor general said, "It was specifically instructed that IDOL, GU shall not offer any other course through distance mode other than the eight courses," adding that later the approval was extended by the UGC for five more years from 2013-14 to 2017-18."
The alleged anomalies happened during the tenure of OK Medhi as vice-chancellor, who is now associated with the Royal Global University in Guwahati, as professor emeritus in chemistry. Medhi was at the helm of Gauhati University from 2008 till 2013, followed by Mridul Hazarika from August 2013 till Handique took over in August 2019. Medhi was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
The university on Monday stated that the alleged irregularities were detected during Hazarika's term when it was time for the renewal of courses. It further said that the concerned courses without the mandatory prior approval were immediately stopped till the necessary permission was obtained. However, student enrollment data for these courses shows that the number of students actually came down only from 2017-18.
In 2014-15, a total of 22,766 students took admission, including those in approved ones while in 2015-16, the number stood at 22,516. For the session 2016-17, the number was at 19,209, although the university adds that the "decrease in enrollment during this period compared to the previous one is due to (i) Admission without advertisement because of delayed approval from UGC (ii) Short duration of admission." Only from 2017-18, a significant decrease was noticed in enrollment with 10,019 students admitted for eight programmes. In 2018-19, the number stands at 7,328 and for the 2019-20 session, it is over 8,000.
Essentially, the university ran these unsanctioned courses without grants, due to which it took high fees from students.
The CAG said that the matter was reported to the government in August 2018, but the state government is yet to respond to it.
What is shocking is that the CAG said in its report that "Audit noticed that Gauhati University had submitted affidavits to UGC from time to time assuring not to start any new distance education programme without prior approval of UGC and in anticipation of recognition. As such, GU submitted false affidavits for getting an extension of the recognition of IDOL."
The report further said, "On being questioned by UGC, GU stated (October 2017 and December 2018) that in anticipation of approval, the courses were offered and from the academic year 2017, the unapproved courses were discontinued.
The CAG was unconvinced by the response as "the courses were offered without the approval of UGC and AICTE".
The UGC informed the CAG in February 2018 that "no University can offer programme through distance mode without prior and specific approval from UGC". The CAG further said that "false affidavit submitted by GU indicated that the University had not even approached for such approval".
"The GU was offering unapproved courses risking the career prospects of the students as degrees under such courses were not valid for jobs in central government services," it added.
IDOL provided among courses from 2010-11 to 2016-17 that were not approved by the UGC. These included post-graduation courses in political science, mathematics (MA), education, philosophy, mathematics (MSc), Nepali and Sanskrit. It is also said to have run unapproved courses giving MCom and MCA degrees. According to sources, it also offered unapproved PG Diploma in Sales and Marketing Management (PGDSMM), Financial Management (PGDFM), Banking and Financial Service (PGDBFS) and Insurance Management (PGDIM). However, the university said on Wednesday that diploma courses do not need approval from UGC.
The CAG report further noted: "It said there was no admission in MSc-Mathematics and PGD-Insurance Management."
Even as there is uncertainty over the fate of the students who were part of these illegal courses, the vice-chancellor sought to allay fears.
"The students may not face as bad consequences as it might seem. We can only give more details as we cover the complete investigation," Handique said.
On 20 November 2018, the UGC in an order signed by its secretary Rajnish Jain said the government has fully accepted the recommendations made by the three-member Justice Reddy Committee which was formed upon the direction of the Supreme Court "to suggest a road map for strengthening and setting up of oversight and regulatory mechanism in relevant field of higher education and allied issues". In this very order, the UGC clearly said, "Under no circumstances, retrospective or ex-post facto recognition to any course through ODL mode shall be granted by UGC."
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Updated Date: Dec 04, 2019 16:53:51 IST