Wednesday, June 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



PU: the case of affiliated colleges

The May 28 "In Focus" article, "What ails Panjab University?", by Mr Gobind Thukral, particularly "A report card", is aimed at bailing out the Vice-Chancellor during whose tenure some of the appointments in the Department of Biotechnology and Chemistry have been made by flouting the UGC norms. Evidently, these selections and appointments have been manipulated against all academic norms. These deserve to be probed and cancelled. Nobody can be given absolute power to ignore the time-tested norms, as this affects the credibility of the university administration.

The appointment of the Vice-Chancellor is a vital question. Thus the guidelines of the UGC are of great significance which emphasise that the chief executive should not remain in power beyond 65 years of age. The present incumbent was appointed even when he had completed 65 years. Clearly, this was a case of political manipulation.

Reading between the lines, one finds that there is some hidden agenda and this deserves to be exposed.

The image of Panjab University must be resurrected democratically and not by imposing such views as reduce the number of representatives of graduates and the like. One point that needs utmost attention is the rigging of elections. Stiff measures should be taken to ensure free and fair elections.

The attempt at counterpoising the state of affairs with respect to democratic/ undemocratic governance, as advocated by Dr J.S. Grewal, reflect a sinister design. People's participation is denied at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and Punjabi University, Patiala, but it must not be compromised in the case of Panjab University. The university managers — the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar and the Deans — should be made more accountable so far as academic needs are concerned. They must come out of their ivory towers and attend to the urgent needs of the affiliating system. So far, they have failed to ensure compliance of the statutes, rules and resolutions. In certain cases, both teaching and non-teaching employees do not get fair and regular salaries.

The campus is not the whole of an affiliating university. Problems of the affiliated colleges must be attended to. No Vice-Chancellor of any of three universities has shown concern in this respect.

Jaspal Singh Randhawa
Lyallpur Khalsa College,

Why part-time Deans?

In blatant violation of the UGC scheme of the College Development Council (CDC), Panjab University has had a part-time Dean for so many years. It has failed to appoint a full-time regular Dean who could work properly for raising the educational standards and providing better infrastructure in the affiliated colleges.

The CDC is the only body to look after the interests of the colleges, but it has been ignored to the chagrin of teachers and students.

Unfortunately, the direction given by the Chancellor on a representation by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) to follow the UGC directive for having a full-time Dean and a dynamic and functional CDC has been ignored by the Vice-Chancellor. The hidden agenda behind the continuation of the present incumbent needs to be exposed.

The Academic Staff College has only a part-time Director whereas it needs a full-time Director.

The apathy of the university towards these two important institutions certainly calls for an explanation.

Professor Puri's justification for appointing persons on a part-time basis in certain non-teaching positions seems to be far from the truth. Such things, in fact, enable the authorities to indulge in nepotism and hence compromise on quality.

The argument in favour of saving funds is totally absurd. In the same way, one can demand a part-time Vice-Chancellor or a part-time Registrar in future.

The chief executive of the university or, for that matter, the Registrar, the Deans and other executive officers have never interacted with the teachers and students of the affiliated colleges. Nearly 95,000 students and 5,000 teachers have no say in the functioning of the university.

Continuous interaction with all the affiliated colleges is essential, but experience shows that the authorities have preferred to live in their own shells.

Is it not worth considering that these universities (Panjab University, Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University) are made residential institutions and a new university — totally affiliating in nature — is established in the interest of the youth of Punjab?

V.K. Tewari
DAV College, 


Weaknesses in selection process

"What ails Panjab University?" appears to be an attempt at providing a comprehensive study of the ills from which Panjab University has been suffering for a long time. The writer has provided very relevant information about the various facets of the university's functioning.

However, the dangerous and devious modes of subversion in the process of selection of suitable candidates for teaching positions have not found the necessary focus. This aspect needs urgent attention to free the teachers working at the university from the clutches of the "politicians" managing the institution.

Many teaching posts are "allowed" to remain unadvertised for years simply because the "managers" of the university do not have their own "suitable candidates" available for appointment. Sometimes even after repeated advertisements, the received applications gather dust for years in the establishment branch of the university for similar reasons. On the other hand, the process of advertisement and selection is completed at a lightning speed when the applicants have the right connections.

It is no secret that many influential and well-connected teachers have "brought" senior positions "tailor-made" for themselves from the governments or other funding agencies. This has been going on for decades, and the most capable and dedicated teachers learn through the hard way that good teaching and research are not what matters for earning one's right to the next higher position. No wonder, politics has replaced academics in the normal working of the university.

The process and criteria of selections for academic positions are so opaque that these generate a lack of trust and cynicism among the candidates. I have the experience of serving as a member of some of the selection committees, being an elected representative of the university lecturers and readers in the Senate. I have found that external experts, are often unfamiliar with the norms and criteria followed in the previous appointments. In my opinion, at times situations do arise when the chairman of the selection committee (the VC or his nominee) must intervene to ensure fairness and consistency so that selections are above board as far as possible.

The doubts about fairness and academic credibility of selections can be minimised if all the members of the selection committee are impartial and honest in discharging their responsibilities. But this does not always happen. Instead of working as the watchdog of the academic interests of the university, some people indulge in clever conspiracies to favour or harm the targeted candidates. If they do not succeed in their designs at the meetings of the selection committees, the dirty games are played to see that the recommendations of these committees are turned down at the meetings of the Syndicate or the Senate.

There are instances of candidates becoming victims of the tussle between the Vice-Chancellor and the dominant sections in the Senate. There are also many instances when the Senate has not allowed the Vice-Chancellor to go ahead with the arbitrary and unfair selections.

Perhaps a more open system of public representation and discussion in which every candidate participates, enabling her/him to study the performance of the other competitors, may be the only way to restore confidence in the selection process. The university would do well to consider the introduction of a transparent process of selection.

I.M. Joshi
Fellow, Panjab University


Students’ problem ignored

The “Report Card” speaks very high of the Vice-Chancellor in respect of direct election to the Panjab University Students’ Council after a gap of 14 years. Since it is an affiliating university and has 108 affiliated colleges, what about the election to the Students’ Councils in these colleges?

The fact is that the students’ case has been totally ignored whereas, on the contrary, their democratic participation can go a long way in giving them a voice, a forum to enhance academic standards. They have no say in the Boards of Study and the Academic Council.

Even after 50 years of Independence, students are at the receiving end. Quite a few merit positions, may be the first and second positions go to the postgraduate students of the affiliated colleges, but they have no say in the academic and administrative affairs of the colleges and the university.

Garhshankar (Hoshiarpur)



The governance structure

The article appears to be manipulated as it gives space to the views of Dr J.S. Grewal about the other two universities having academicians on the Senate and the Syndicate. This is a false statement as the Senate and the Syndicate of Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjabi University have nearly 100 per cent nominations.

Those nominated are generally the stooges of the politicians in power. The historic blunder was committed when these two universities were carved out of Panjab University, but the Act excluded the provisions of democratic (elected) representation to the graduates, teachers and principals of the affiliated colleges. That was a major blow to grassroots democratic representation in university governance.

The teachers’ movement has always advocated the democratisation of the governance structure of university bodies. On April 22-23, the national seminar held by the All- India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO) devoted a special sub-theme to this aspect and demanded that Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University must have amended Acts to provide for elected representation.

So far as Panjab University is concerned, the case of the 108 affiliated colleges, having thousands of teachers and students, should not be undermined. There is need to provide more representation to these colleges.

Doaba College,
Dr J. S. BAL,
Khalsa College,
Amritsar Jalandhar

Senate, Syndicate

There are serious financial irregularities, maladministration and chaotic conditions at Panjab University. But the facts reported are not as per the proceedings of the statutory bodies of the university, the Senate and the Syndicate. The Senate is the governing body as per an Act of Parliament passed in 1947.

A lot of expenses have been incurred because of the decisions of the present Vice-Chancellor. A sum of Rs 14.80 lakh has been spent in the renovation, airconditioning and carpeting of his office, while the university is facing a serious financial crisis. In a country like India, there is an acute shortage of funds for higher education. Similarly, a large number of airconditioners have been installed at the places where there was no need for this expensive facility. An additional expenditure on electricity will put an unnecessary burden on the university finances.

Prof M.M. Puri has appointed nearly 19 retired non-teaching persons in key positions against the decision of the Senate, but The Tribune has pointed out only a few cases. The Secretary to the Vice-Chancellor, the Adviser of the IAS Coaching Centre, Mr S.K. Bijlani, Col C.M. Sharma, Mr B.S. Gosal, Mr S.S. Saini and Mr I.K. Sanan are the other names.

Another fact mentioned in the article was that he tried to justify the anti-democratic functioning of Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University. The article, instead of pinpointing the glaring mistakes committed in the case of Panjab University, justifies the actions of the Vice-Chancellor, who gave the impression that the democratic system should be stopped. There was no need to undermine the authority of the Senate and the Syndicate.

Prof V. K. GUPTA,
Former Secretary,
DAV College Teachers’ Union

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