THE STIFLING STALEMATE AT VISVA BHARATI

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Crazy as it may seem, Visva Bharati at this moment is headed by Vice Chancellor Professor Sushanta Dattagupta, but stripped off all financial and appointing powers, resulting in a stifling stalemate condition for the University where all major financial and appointment policies are on the hold for more than 8 months now. No one in Santiniketan really knows when and how Visva Bharati would get out of this stalemate.

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A simplistic solution is ofcourse to appoint a new Vice Chancellor with full powers, but Central Government has neither accepted Prof Dattgupta’s resignation; nither he could be sacked as steadfastly desired by HRD Ministry of Govt of India. It appears that Honourable President of India, Sri Pranab Mukherjee, and the final appointing authority, is not convinced of the merit in the case to summarily dismiss Prof Sushanta Dattgupta. If dismissed, it will be the first such case of dismissal of a Vice Chancellor of a Central University in independent India.

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Let us be very straight forward that to blame the top man of Visva Bharati, for every conceivable misdeed, is too simplistic a theory. In reality proper functioning of a University is a multi layered activity, and if the loopholes are many, many layers of people are invariably involved in it. No one can justifiably demand to be exactly a sage in Visva Bharati. Failures in Visva Bharati are, in essence, collective in nature. In fact, just objective observation points out to us in no uncertain terms that many shady dealers within Visva Bharati manage to hide under the facet of several Vice Chancellors quite cunningly. But, as a top executive of a University, Vice Chancellor obviously remains responsible for all these; but that should not exonerate others who are also involved is such failures. That is the story of Visva Bharati in a nut shell.

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A huge problem for Visva Bharati is either one is Pro-Vice Chancellor (let’s say pro-administration) or against. There seems to be nothing in between. So, Visva Bharati today do not have intellectuals in top administration or in top academics who can give a real push to a few programs initiated by administration and oppose others on the basis of valid arguments. So, this idea of yes-men and no-men are actually manipulative gestures cooked up by the very Visva Bharati fraternity, basically to settle personal ambitions. Today there is hardly any intellect left in Visva Bharati who can conduct a democratic forum in major policy matters, and handle contradictions with elegance. This democratic mechanism has been weakened by successive Vice Chancellors aided by the Yes Men coterie within Visva Bharati. This is in reality, is the biggest failure of Visva Bharati, according to my perception.

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Vice Chancellors usually take quick advantage of this yes-man and no-man divide, to push forward agendas which they think proper, while the ‘no-men’ are either marginalized or made silent. This model of operation however invariably generates enough negative resistance to make life miserable for Vice Chancellors during their end tenure. Prof Rajat Kanta Ray faced the same predicament exactly for the same reasons, and Prof Sushanta Dattgupta is feeling the effect of this negative resistance right now. So, this model of administrative operation appears to be a big failure. The fraternity of Visva Bharati must realize by now that, they need intellects who can express independent evaluations with proper arguments, rather than a coterie of yes-men or a vociferous anti administration lobby. These days the pro and anti lobbies have made the environment of Visva Bharati absolutely indecent, literally a place with plenty of filth and very little substance. This mindset cannot be blamed to the Vice Chancellor only; this actually reflects a huge loss of character within the Visva Bharati fraternity.

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The negative fractions within Visva Bharati, got a huge fillip to unite against Prof Dattagupta, when he tried to scrap the conditional automatic entry route for school children to graduation within Visva Bharati. Huge amount of concerted political strings were pulled, and a fact finding committee was formed by UGC to probe Prof Sushanta Dattagupta. According to Prof Sushanta Dattagupta himself, he did not get a decent audience from the fact finding committee, and Ms Smriti Irani, Minister HRD simply refused to meet Prof Dattagupta on repeated requests. On basis of reports of fact finding committee, HRD issued a show cause to VC Prof Dattagupta, which he challenged in court and lost. Consequently Prof Sushanta Dattagupta tendered resignation from Vice Chancellors post which HRD ministry did not accept. Now, on basis of the show cause reply, HRD ministry wished to sack Prof Dattagupta to create first such instance in Independent India, and forwarded the proposal to President Sri Pranab Mukherjee. The president’s office ritually returned the file to HRD Minister for several times, seeking legal and other clarification on some points or other. From reliable sources within HRD ministry it appears that President of India is not willing to sack Prof Dattagupta and would like HRD ministry to accept his resignation, to which Ms Smriti Irani has not agreed so far.

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The readings at surface appear to be a tussle of political lobbying. But a careful observation may also prop up questions about the propriety of steps taken to sack a Vice Chancellor of a central university to create only such instance in independent India. Are the allegations made against Prof Dattagupta proper or were those properly investigated, again, within a democratic format? What then is preventing the presidents’ office to give the consent? Can this be a ploy to push in ‘their man’ at Visva Bharati by the BJP think tank, a RSS man may be, which the President do not endorse? May be! So, the issue has got peculiarly complicated. My personal reading is, this is a case of both combined, improper investigation procedure and the ploy to push in a RSS man as Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati at the earliest possible, which makes President of India, Sri Pranab Mukherjee, extremely reluctant to green signal sacking of Prof Dattagupta.

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The objective of this article is not to judge the merit or the demerit of the case or what actually is going on between the President’s office and HRD Ministry, in which we are simply unable to deal with much competence. But this impasse, of a most peculiar nature, has a severely crippling effect on Visva Bharati on its development plans. To force a Vice Chancellor to run a University without any financial and appointing powers is not only logically illegal but also makes the institution practically defunct. I am shocked and strongly condemn the apathy of the HRD Ministry to the actual plight of Visva Bharati where every program has got stuck and the University is barely running on day to day basis. After all, proper functioning of a central university should be the top priority of the HRD Ministry over and above political frictions. It appears the BJP Ministry at the center is least bothered about the actual plight of Visva Bharati right now. This itself can be a big wakeup call for all concerned, specially for the ex-students fraternity of Visva Bharati. Honestly speaking, the Honourable Presidents, Governments, HRD Ministers and Vice Chancellors may come and go, but Visva Bharati needs to move on; we, as citizens of India should at least be that respectful to Rabindranath Tagore!
IT IS A SHAME REALLY!
Disgusted,
Shubhashis

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3 Comments

  1. Ritayan Roy says:

    Shubhashis da,
    The problem is not really with a particular VC, or to say Prof. Dattagupta. The problem is the system itself and it’s functioning. Even if a very honest person comes to VB as VC, he/she will suffer the same problem.

    VB has become more like a place of politics, like many other institutes, where academics has gone backwards. For promotions and appointments, “oiling” has become an easier way.

    On the other hand a bunch of useless people, backed by political leaders or “Santineketanites” are retained in the university to oppose just for propaganda!

    The problem is quite complicated and the removal of VC wouldn’t solve it.

    In my opinion, the solution is to recruit credible people as the top VB admin posts, who might be from the anti-lobby (but credible) and make the whole operation transparent. All the meetings and decisions, financial as well as bureaucratic, has to be in public domain and in case of disagreement the VC should have the authority to take a decision, however, he would be solely responsible for it.
    Any appointment has to be transparent, and keep it in public domain why he/she fits in that position over others.

    If the push is not given towards meritocracy then it wouldn’t be possible to make any significant change in VB, with or without Prof. Dattagupta!

    Regards,
    Ritayan

  2. Indrajit Maitra says:

    দুঃখের কথা প্রাক্তনীরা অধিকাংশ বিশ্বভারতীর ভাল-মন্দের ব্যাপারে সর্বদাই উদাসীন। তোমাকে অনেক ধন্যবাদ যে তুমি সচেতন করার জন্য চেষ্টা করে থাক। কিন্তু ফল কী হবে জানিনা। অন্ততঃ একটি র‍্যালি শান্তিনিকেতনে হওয়া দরকার। ডাক দিলে এগিয়ে আসতে পারি, অন্ততঃ কয়েকজনকে নিয়ে। তবে সেখানে রাজনৈ্তিক আবহাওয়া এবং ব্যক্তিদের উপস্থিতি বাঞ্ছনীয় নয়। তবে রাজনীতিকেরাই আজকের দিনে নেতা।

  3. admin says:

    Tony (Santanu) Mitra

    A timely article of a typical অচলায়তন.

    We, those that left Santiniketan for the wider world, have lost a pathway through which one could contribute back into either the society or the institution. Sentiment alone remains, and fades with time.

    In my understanding Visva Bharati was not conceptualized to be a seat of learning where students will learn merely how to earn a wage and better themselves economically without ploughing nutrition back into the society that sustained them. It was not conceptualized to create generations of selfish gluttons that would only take and not give back. It was not conceptualized to be a cash cow that local job holders could milk forever. And the milk has now run dry.

    To me, Rabindranath Tagore aught to be separated from Santiniketan and Visva Bharati. He was not just a person that lived for a while in Uttarayan, wrote some poems, and composed songs and dance drama. Unfortunately, those songs and dance drama are the reasons most folks in India, Bengal included, remember him for today.

    But Rabindranath, a world travelling humanist – formed strong opinion on how societies, ethnic group, races, nations and indeed the global body of man might co-exist, with each other and with the rest of the living planet. He dirtied his hands to try and put to practice his views both locally and globally, and ended up mostly misunderstood by all.

    He has been kept shackled to an undeserving place and institution for too long. He has done enough for Santiniketan, Bengal and India. He deserved to be freed for the rest of Humanity.

    Meanwhile, Visva Bharati and Santiniketan – the institution and the place – needs to re-examine itself and find a new identity and definition of itself and find a new reason to exist.

    The days of sentimental attachment between the central Government and the place that Gandhi, Nehru and Indira had, are no more. All of them had Rabindranath as the glue that kept them attached to the place and the idea. Nothing has come to replace that glue.

    Life is at the cross roads for Visva Bharati, and it does not even know it.

    Meanwhile, nice ground level observations from Bhaiya (Shubhashis)

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