M A I N   N E W S

Reader suspended for harassing girl
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, February 9
Punjabi University today suspended a Reader in the Department of Physics, Dr Hemraj Verma, following the submission of a report by a committee constituted by the Vice-Chancellor to probe the charge of harassment levelled against him by a former research fellow, Ms Puneeta Verma.

According to sources, Ms Puneeta Verma had joined as a Research Fellow in a project under Dr H.R. Verma in March 1994 and had thereafter registered herself with the Punjabi university for a doctorate in 1996. However, she found the progress of her work unsatisfactory and appealed to the university to look into her case. Accusing Dr Verma of harassment, Puneeta in her statement before the committee said, “Had I recorded Dr Verma’s statements it would have been ‘impossible’ for you (the committee members) to hear it in my presence.

Confirming the suspension, the Vice-Chancellor , Mr Swarn Singh Boparai, said it was ‘intolerable’ that a teacher who was supposed to act as a guide and protector should instead indulge in harassment. The case had been taken up for investigation after the Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University, Dr G.K. Mehta, intervened on Puneeta’s behalf.

University sources said the problem cropped up after Dr Verma failed to comment on the biannual progress reports submitted by the Ph.D candidate for three years beginning in 1997. According to the norms of the university, a supervisor has to make his assessment of the work. Dr B.S. Sandhu, the university spokesperson, stated that despite reminders by the authorities , Dr Verma did not assess the candidate’s work. The candidate then resigned her fellowship with the university and joined as a Lecturer at Vaish College, Rohtak. She, however, continued with her research work under Dr Verma.

The report submitted by the fact-finding committee comprising Dean, Academic Affairs, Dean Research and Dean Faculty of Sciences, recorded that on being insisted upon that his comment be attached to Puneeta`s progress report of 1999 to 2000, Dr Verma wrote that the student should focus more on publishing her works. This, however, was countered by the candidate who had almost 20 publication to her credit in international and national journals.

The rough draft of the thesis was submitted for scrutiny to Dr Verma in 2003. He however, neither checked it nor returned it.

Her case was taken up by the Vice-Chancellor of the Allahabad University, a nuclear scientist himself. He wrote to Mr Boparai requesting a probe as to why Puneeta’s migration could not be affected even after the candidate had spent nearly eight years of her life working for her doctorate. The committee set up by the Vice-Chancellor thereafter submitted its report on January 30 after finding Dr Verma guilty of harassment. The Vice-Chancellor stated that a detailed inquiry into the issue will be commenced soon. Dr Verma could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

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