Monday, August 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Selecting Vice-Chancellors

I HAVE read with interest the article “University Chancellor — Governor or Chief Justice” by Mr Bhim S. Dahiya (The Tribune, August 12). There is no doubt that in our universities the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor is made purely on political and extraneous considerations despite the fact that the Governor being the Chancellor of the university is the only competent appointing authority. As per the law, the Chancellor cannot abdicate and delegate his power to the Chief Minister by merely becoming a silent spectator in this regard.

The University Grants Commission should order a dispassionate study of the kind of Vice-Chancellors we have had in our university system since its inception. The study should include surveys of the manner of their choice and the considerations that seem to have weighed with the appointing authorities in making the choice. The circumstances in which the VCs sometimes leave before their tenure ends can also be studied.

There are three ways of selecting a VC. One is the choice of the government or the Chancellor. Another is the selection by the university’s Senate and the third (more devious one) is asking a selection committee, in which the Chancellor is represented, to submit a panel of names from which the Chancellor makes the final choice.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons why wrong choices are made is that when a university wants a VC, it wants him in a hurry. When at last an appointment is made, there is no effort to promote a sense of continuity. Every incumbent seems to be called upon to begin at the beginning, instead of where his predecessors left. Many VCs consider it their mission to undo whatever their predecessors had been doing, and in this effort they receive zealous support from a vast crowd of sycophants. Most VCs have only two styles: to be boastful or bitter, or both.

To ensure healthy and orderly growth, a university should, during the tenure of every VC, make preparations for the succession. This should be one of the responsibilities of a VC. Unfortunately, over the last one decade, the quality of VCs has gone down considerably, both academically and administratively. The foremost reason in this regard is too much of political and bureaucratic interference in the affairs of our universities. The VCs are often beholden to political leaders. They are often selected less for their academic merit than for their pliability and capacity to deliver to their political masters.

Since the position of a VC does not depend on the opinions of his colleagues and he remains busy playing politics, consequently, the academic output of the university is incidental to his calculations and manipulations. The net result of all this is that both research and teaching suffer because the VC feels unconcerned, and marginalised or frustrated teachers are least interested in such activities.

Despite all this, the importance of this august office remains intact. No university is likely to be better than what its VC wants it to be. Hence the importance of the right choice.


MDU: sickening development

The Government of Haryana held a civic reception in honour of the deposed Prime Minister of Fiji, Mr Mahendra Chaudhry, at the MD University campus. Through a circular the university had made it obligatory for teachers, students and others to be present on the occasion. To ensure compliance, after the reception all were required to report in their respective offices where a roll call was held.

The order, to say the least, was sickening. Under what legal provision can a university direct its teachers and students to participate in a civic reception organised not by it but by the state government. Moreover, it violates the spirit of civic reception, which is basically voluntary in nature.


Terrorism: tunnel idea

The recent spurt in Pakistan-backed terrorists’ activities has once again brought into focus the question whether India should follow the policy of “hot pursuit”.

Whereas it is for defence experts to decide this question, I would like to draw the attention of the public and the media to the suggestion made by Mr S.P. Malhotra in his letter published on July 10 that India should construct a tunnel on its soil for diverting the waters of the Chenab into the Ravi with a view to paralysing the working of the canal system in Pakistan.

The construction of this tunnel does not mean the violation of any law, national or international. It also does not mean violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan. It does not mean crossing of the LoC or resorting to any bloodshed. It is a non-violent defensive measure and will be put into operation not with a view to grabbing Pakistan’s share of the river water but only to teach it a lesson to behave.

After all, what does India lose by its mere construction? Had this tunnel been ready today, nobody would have thought of any “hot pursuit”, which is not a bloodless activity.


Ambulance services

The ambulances services run by government agencies in the town of Shimla are in a terrible state. Out of 12 ambulances that they have, not more than two are plying at a time. On August 11 I called up the ambulance services for transporting my mother, who had developed sudden chest pain. I was told that 11 of them were out of order and I could expect to get it in three hours time.

This of course, reflects the state of most government-run institutions and we are quite sure that not much would change despite raising a hue and cry about it. We, however, still request the authorities to realise the seriousness of the situation and do something to improve its sad state.



Quota for women: unanswered queries

This is with reference to Mr J.L. Gupta’s article, “Emancipation of women”, published on August 16. I would like Mr Gupta to remember the idea behind democracy, “Equality and justice for all”.

Apart from the reservation in jobs, we already have reservation for SCs/STs in Parliament. Now we are debating on whether to give it to women too. There goes the concept of equal opportunity out of the window. As a young “X” caste male, I may not be able to contest elections for a seat of my own choice. I am in favour of reservation, but only in jobs. For heaven’s sake, let us leave Parliament free from such things. Let democracy breathe.

It is the middle-aged/ageing politicians who will approve of the reservation law for their “betis” and “bahus” so that female “shakti” can flourish in this nation. But what about nourishing the soul of democracy? All those who feel so strongly about giving women reservation in Parliament should think of reservation of seats in their own parties. That makes sense! Also, 50 years down the line, who is going to undo these laws?

Now about women coming into their own. I would like all men with young daughters to answer the following questions:

(a) Will you allow your daughter to pursue a career of her own choice?

(b) Can she remain single by choice?

(c) Can she marry out of her caste/race without any reservation on your part?

(d) Have you given your daughter her rightful share in the family business/property?

(e) Will you allow her to break a bad marriage, or force her to continue?

The elder generation should make a start at home first instead of wrecking the concept of democracy. Respected elders, please, leave behind a system of democracy for us and not a “Reserved Republic”.

The writer has mentioned in his article the history of oppression of women in the world, and examples like the attitude of Arabs towards their women. Well, I am not an Arab. Nor am I living in history. I was born in 1976. I respect women and have two sisters. But my message is clear: Let democracy remain democracy.



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