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PAU VC quits in protest
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
Refusing to carry out verbal orders of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal saying that they are not in “the interests of the university and can jeopardise the security of the campus,” vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University K.S. Aulakh has quit.

He served a two-month notice on the board of management of the university requesting that he should be relieved on May 31 as vice-chancellor of the university.

While the PAU VC has resigned, trouble is also brewing in Punjabi University, Patiala, regarding which the treasury benches made serious attacks on vice-chancellor Swaran Singh Boparai during the just-concluded opening session of the 13th Punjab vidhan sabha.

In a three-page letter addressed to the PAU board, Aulakh referred to the telephonic conversation he had with the Chief Minister yesterday.

The Chief Minister, he said, telephoned him and addressed him in an unsavoury manner demanding that the university gates, which remained closed for security reasons, should be opened.

The university authorities had ordered closure of its gates some years ago after a couple of serious incidents leading to registration of criminal cases were reported from the campus.

“I strongly feel that such measures, if taken, are not in the interests of the university and can jeopardise the security of the campus. I tried to explain the situation, but the Chief Minister was insisting that it was a poll promise made by him which he wished to honour.

“At this, I felt strongly that I am unable to fulfil the whims, demands and desires of the Chief Minister and that I have lost his faith. Therefore, it becomes incumbent on my part to quit gracefully, enabling the Chief Minister to have his way in running the affairs of the university and also to give an opportunity to the government to appoint a vice-chancellor of their liking.

“I, therefore, regret that I cannot implement the verbal orders of the Chief Minister conveyed telephonically on March 30,” said Aulakh in his letter.

Copies of the resignation letter have been sent to the Governor, who is the Chancellor of the university, besides the Chief Minister, the chief secretary and the financial commissioner (development).

Quoting from the past, he said even on earlier occasions, the matter threatened to assume the proportion of a showdown when an Akali minister of the then Punjab government reacted strongly to my plain- speaking upholding merit. “I tried to explain to him that all appointments in the university were made purely on merit and nothing else prevails in such matters. The matter went to media and The Tribune came out with an editorial on July 11, 2001.”

Says Aulakh in his letter: “Politicalisation of universities in Punjab is all too well known. How appointments and promotions are made in the universities is common knowledge. In this context, if a vice-chancellor initiates action against a professor for inviting or encouraging political interference in a case of promotion, he is not only justified but also sets an example for other institutions. If the head of an institution does not stop political interference, who else will?”

Aulakh would have completed six years in office on April 1 as he had succeeded G.S. Kalkat in 2001. He had taken over at a stage when the university was tottering with hardly any funds available for further research. It was during his tenure that the union government sanctioned a special grant of Rs 100 crore last year to carry out the basic and strategic research forward.

He also claims to have restored the work culture in the university as members of the faculty had been granted liberties which distracted their attention from research and development. He had to at times take certain unpalatable steps which were not to the liking of the faculty as well as non-teaching staff.

After assuming charge, he said, he took various administrative and fiscal measures to improve the work and generate income of the university. To strengthen inter-disciplinary research, 14 departments were merged, various austerity measures taken and the use of electricity regulated which resulted in saving of Rs 72 lakh per annum. The income of PAU doubled from Rs 5.65 crore to Rs 10.43 crore during the past five years. The staff strength was reduced by 22 per cent for a saving of Rs 15 crore.

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VC’s allegations “incorrect”

Reacting to the letter of PAU vice-chancellor KS Aulakh, a spokesman of the Punjab government said all allegations made in the letter of resignation “were totally incorrect and appear to have been made on extraneous considerations. Development is entirely an internal matter of the university and seems to be the culmination of the prevailing atmosphere of the campus.”

Meanwhile, Harcharan Bains, media adviser to the Chief Minister, said he had been “hurt by the lack of academic decency in the letter of the vice-chancellor and coming from an academician it is a disgrace.” Harcharan Bains has been till recently a member of the faculty of PAU.

Sources reveal that ever since the change of the government, deputations of students and teachers has been making representations making allegations of corruption and also about an alleged land deal. They held that since the vice-chancellor was apprehending a vigilance inquiry, he decided to quit blaming the Chief Minister for his unceremonious exit.

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