Sunday 28 February 2021

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Society | Education

Row over university autonomy

 

Goa University, the sole university of the tiny tourist state, has suddenly become a centre of public debate here with chief minister Manohar Parrikar dubbing the institute as a 'mere PhD-producing machine' involved in several financial irregularities.

His action to appoint an Officer on Special Duty to probe into the alleged irregularities has sparked protests from within the faculty. While denying irregularities, vice chancellor Balkrishna Sonde has however welcomed the decision.

In a strongly worded letter written to governor Mohammed Fazal, Dr Peter de Souza, HoD of Political Science, has objected to the appointment of a government officer. "It constitutes a grave violation of the principle of intellectual autonomy", he states.

"University is not a fully autonomous institution", strikes back Parrikar, arguing that it cannot claim financial autonomy and beg to the state government for funds. Alleging corruption, he has transferred education director Dr M Modassir as the OSD to probe into it.

Describing the state action as the beginning of the end of university's autonomy, Dr de Souza, an eminent political commentator, reads it as a sinister design of emasculating institutions for political gains.

Citing rules of the Goa University Act, he lists out sufficient authorities including state finance secretary and education secretary appointed on the finance committee as well as chancellor's (governor) right to set up inquiry to address issues of administrative and financial irregularities.

"The government has no role to play in this. The chancellor has", states Dr de Souza. But Sonde claims that the OSD has been appointed by the government in consultation with the governor, who is the university chancellor.

According to him, the OSD will help the university in administering the institution, until a new a registrar takes over after three months. "But he will not function as the proxy registrar", he claims. The former registrar retired a month ago.

"Intellectual autonomy is not the gift of any government, to be taken away on anybody's whim, but the inalienable right of a free people. An OSD appointed by the government constitutes an erosion of this right. It is the first step on a slippery slope", observes Dr de Souza.

Prof Sonde welcomes Dr de Souza's action of publicising his letter written to the chancellor, stating that it will help a public debate. But with the CM's utterances over the university and appointment of the OSD, the letter appears to have added fuel to the fire that was seething within the academic circles under the present BJP regime.


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