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To sack or not: Mumbai University VC Sanjay Deshmukh's expertise on mangroves has left state, governor in a bind

Mumbai University vice-chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh, who was sent on forced leave following his lack of preparedness recently put the future of 4.5 lakh varsity students in limbo, is eager to resume work, and the government is unable to decide on sacking Deshmukh for his unprofessionalism.

Even though Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao has asked Deshmukh to resign, sources have revealed that the dominant opinion among Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Higher Technical Education Minister Vinod Tawde, and Rao, who met on Sunday to decide the vice-chancellor's fate, is that sacking Deshmukh won't be good either for Mumbai University, the vice-chancellor or the mangroves that 52-year-old Deshmukh has been researching on for years now.

 To sack or not: Mumbai University VC Sanjay Deshmukhs expertise on mangroves has left state, governor in a bind

File image of Sanjay Deshmukh. Image courtesy: University of Mumbai

The ruling opinion in the three offices seems to be that "if Deshmukh is terminated from service, it won't be a good sign either for Mumbai University, Deshmukh's future or his work in the field of environment, mangroves and water conservation," a source told Firspost.

"The state government needs Deshmukh's knowledge and expertise in the field," sources at Rajbhavan and the Mantralaya confirmed.

And it's because of that the governor, who is also the chancellor of the Mumbai University, has asked Deshmukh to resign on his own.,

Expertise vs professionalism

A look into Deshmukh's biodata makes his technical merit to important be overlooked. Deshmukh, who was appointed vice-chancellor on 7 July 2015, has, to his credit, 172 research publications over 18 years. Deshmukh has served as a scientist and head of Coastal Systems Research Programme at the MS Swaminathan Research Centre and is the only teacher in Mumbai University to be a recognised PHD Guide in five subjects — Geography, Botany, Life Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Biotechnology.

After completing his MSc from the Institute of Science, Mumbai University in 1986, Deshmukh at 25, became one of the youngest PHD degree holders of Mumbai University in 1990. He was a principal scientist at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) between 1995 and 1999, served at director (programmes) at the Manav Sadhan Vikas Sanstha during 1999-2001 and was director (research) at Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini during 2001-2003.

But expertise doesn't necessarily lead to professionalism, does it?

In a sudden move, Deshmukh had taken up entire assessment system for the final 2016-2017 exams online without putting in place a contingency plan or preparation to carry out the momentous task. The decision created a huge mess with results of 4,52,889 students from 477 streams of the university being delayed for nearly three months, giving the students and their families sleepless nights.

Deshmukh was sent on indefinite leave on 9 August for missing deadlines set up by the university chancellor for declaring the exam results. What was more shocking was the fact that the vice-chancellor never briefed Rao on the mess in the university.

"Under the act, it is binding on a vice-chancellor to that results are declared within 45 days of the exams," said sources from University.

The results for all streams were declared finally on 19 Septemeber, but still, it's pending for 950 students because of technical difficulties.

As per rule of Maharashtra University, act results were to be declared in 45 days of time, but the university failed to do so because of Deshmukh's ill-prepared move.

This year, the university had 14,000 teachers and 2,500 university staff to carry out the momentous task of checking 17.32 lakhs answer sheets of 4.52 lakhs students.

But despite all this Rao has not been sacked. "The fact that the state machinery has completely ignored Deshmukh's mistakes whether it was his decision to overrule the advice from state government, doing things in isolation, or not keeping the chancellor informed about the university affairs, just don't fit right," a higher rank officer in university told Firstpost.

More to the story?

Surprisingly, Deshmukh's links with the Sangh Parivar have resurfaced in discourses on and around the university.

One of Deshmukh's previous employers, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabhodini, is a Sangh Parivar outfit based in Uttan. He served as director (research) in Prabodhini from 2001 to 2003 and considers Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, BJP vice-president and director general of Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, his idol. Earlier, he has worked with Suresh Prabhu and maintains a good equation with the RSS and BJP top leadership.

Though sources claim that the chancellor's office has made up its mind to force Deshmukh out, sources have revealed that plans have been put in place to offer him another job, and save his career.

"If Deshmukh resigns, most likely, he will be reappointed to a committee of the state government," a source said.

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Updated Date: Sep 27, 2017 21:55:51 IST

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