Tuesday, May 29, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Gag chokes PU teachers
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
“Any dissatisfaction with decisions of officials of the university or its bodies and their open criticism through Press statements would be construed as an unconstitutional and indisciplinary activity,” reads the April 25 decision of the Syndicate of Punjabi University against which teachers are up in arms claiming it to be a direct attack on their “freedom of expression”.

The Syndicate also set up a six-member disciplinary committee to take decisions on its behalf on issues pertaining to acts of certain “disruptive elements who tarnish the image of the university through their Press and public statements”. The teachers, however, maintain that the constitution of the committee is unconstitutional as the Syndicate, according to a directive of the Supreme Court, cannot delegate its authority to any other committee or individual.

The April 25 decisions, which were reportedly kept a closely guarded secret, came out into the open a few days ago when certain senior members of the faculty, including Dr Sucha Singh Gill, an economist, and Prof U.C. Singh of the Punjab School of Management, received show cause notices, about certain comments or observations made by them in the recent past. They have been asked to explain their conduct within 10 days.

The teaching community is shocked at “unprecedented controls being proposed to be enacted through the six-member Disciplinary Committee.

“This is not only gagging the voice of the intellectuals of society, but also the worst-ever assault on the teaching community in a democratic society,” said Mr Bhupinder Singh Khaira, President of the Punjabi University Teachers Association.

“What forum would we be left with to voice our concerns over deterioration and malpractices in the education system, to highlight our grievances and even publish our research findings,” says Mr Khaira.

“The decision also reflects how we want to treat our university teachers who are supposed to generate and disseminate knowledge,” says Dr Sucha Singh Gill, a regular columnist on economic affairs, and a member of the Punjab Government’s Committee on WTO.

Dr Gill, who has been consulted by the Punjab Government on the Budget for the past several years, was also the main contributor to the economics component of the report prepared by the University for the Constitution Review Committee.

He has now been served a show-cause notice for his expert comments on “Sangat Darshan a waste”, in which he had observed:” Development planning was a long-term process.

By splurging precious funds in a resource crunched state on projects which have not been properly prioritised and evaluated or planned in advance, the infrastructure development plans are harmed.” He added that the same money could go into projects higher on the priority list.

“Every year, Punjab’s Finance Minister mentions the four-laning of the highways connecting Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Ferozepore; Patiala, Chandigarh, Bathinda, Amritsar and Jalandhar, and Ropar, Balachaur and Nawanshahr. But so far, the government has not managed the funds. However, Mr Badal is spending crores during sangat darshans. This shows how lop-sided development could be when tempered with politically vested interests,” Mr Gill said.

For these comments, he has been asked to explain his conduct as the six-member Disciplinary Committee comprising Mr Mohinder Singh Romana, Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, Mr Harbahajan Singh, Justice Iqbal Singh, Dr Pawan Kumar Singla and a nominee of the Vice-Chancellor at its May 14 meeting “took a serious view of the publication of the news item on May 11 criticising the Punjab Government.

“University teachers are the intellectual property of a state. By putting curbs on their freedom of expression, the university is trying to dwarf the entire society.

Which forum is left for the university intellectuals to share their thought process for the betterment of the society in general, and the state in particular. Never before, not even during the Emergency, were such draconian laws passed, Dr Gill and Mr Khaira said maintaining they would not take these “unconstitutional orders lying down”.Back

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