It’s not usual for investigative agencies to have to go after heads of institutions of higher learning. But that’s what is happening: the NCERT director faces a vigilance inquiry, the IGNOU vice-chancellor a CBI case, the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) vice-chancellor a CBI inquiry, and two IIT directors face ministerial inquiries. The money involved is no small change: altogether, the irregularities being probed amount to Rs 522.52 crore. The IGNOU case alone involves Rs 470 crore, and the IIT Kharagpur inquiry about Rs 2.5 crore.
At NCERT, most recently in a controversy, investigations began with a complaint from the Society for Awareness and Fight against Corruption. The allegation was that Prof Parvin Sinclair, who took charge as director some six months ago, had committed irregularities in the purchase of paper meant for textbooks and pulp board meant for textbook covers. In May, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) recommended an inquiry against Sinclair.
Says Arjun Dev, a historian and former faculty member of NCERT, “My point is, if there is a complaint, the inquiry should be transparent and findings should be made public. This will contribute positively to belief in the system. In the Sinclair matter, the HRD ministry should make the findings public.”
And J.P. Purohit, general secretary of the body that filed the complaint, concurs. “The inquiry report should be in the public domain to ensure that we continue to keep faith in the system,” he says. “There’s no democracy in the council. If we raise an alarm about any wrongdoing, suspension orders are handed to (junior) people. This is unfair. We want an inquiry against the secretary and the director of the council.”
The other senior academician in trouble is V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, former vice-chancellor of IGNOU. Inquiries against him have been on for some time, and culminated in the CBI filing a case on July 27. The main allegation is that he granted permission to run distance education courses to two universities in violation of rules. Some officials of his administration and officials of the Punjab Technical University and Sikkim Manipal University, which profited from Pillai’s decision, have also been named.
At the IITs, it’s a matter of promotions despite implication in controversies—with quid pro quo recommendations. IIT Kharagpur director Damodar Acharya is one player, and the other is IIT Bhubaneshwar director Madhusudan Chakraborty. As AICTE chairman from May 2005 to June 2007, Acharya had overruled an expert committee’s report and granted extension of approval for Padmavathi Engineering College, Tirupati, despite the college not having the stipulated faculty strength. The CBI had probed this and recommended departmental action, including major penalties against him. The HRD ministry had also issued a showcause notice to him.
But when the time came for seeking extension of Acharya’s term, he found ready recommendation from Chakraborty. The latter is not free of taint either: he is being probed for the alleged illegal purchase of equipment worth Rs 2.5 crore at IIT Bhubaneshwar. And it is not surprising that among those who recommended Chakraborty’s name for directorship of IIT Bhubaneshwar was Acharya, under whom he had served as dean at Kharagpur.
Another IIT director under the scanner is Prof Anil K. Bhowmick, who is the director of IIT Patna. As dean for sponsored research and consultancy at IIT Kharagpur, Bhowmick had gone against the norms in awarding a software development project to a private firm. Both CAG and CBI have indicted him; in fact, the CBI had recommended “major penalty” (which includes dismissal) against him. But Bhowmick has instead won a promotion; he has been heading IIT Patna since 2009.
Dev says he finds nothing unusual in such promotions. “In the past, I had filed complaints against an NCERT director. The inquiry was conducted but its findings were never made public. And he ended up winning a UNESCO award.”
In comparison to these cases, the goings-on being investigated by CBI at AMU seem of much lesser magnitude. Nevertheless, the very fact that the vice-chancellor of this prestigious university, P.K. Abdul Azis, faces a CBI inquiry is shocking. Though an fir hasn’t yet been lodged, the agency is conducting a preliminary inquiry and has collected nearly 50 files of important university projects in which Azis is alleged to have committed irregularities. Earlier, the Union HRD ministry had set up two panels to investigate him but nothing came out of that. Later, the investigation was handed over to the CBI. Sources said the irregularities related to finances, but refused to divulge more, including the amounts involved.
It seems it’s a season of investigations—rather than research—at our institutions of higher learning.
Bottom line is nothing is sacred in this country (partly because so much is sacred in the country and even the sacred just becomes routine, mundane and everywhere - leading to no importance or value for the sacred). You can buy anyone - only question is for Rs 10 or Crores. An uncle of mine believes it is genetic .... may be he is right .... corruption is now encoded into our gene pool.
No escape .... blame it on the genes.
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