Bengal proposes to make CM chancellor of Universities instead of Governor; experts pan move

A member of the cabinet said a bill would be introduced in the Assembly to change the chancellor of state universities.  

Published: 27th May 2022 02:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th May 2022 10:28 AM   |  A+A-

Mamata Banerjee(L) and West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar (Right)

By Express News Service

KOLKATA:  The West Bengal cabinet on Thursday approved a proposal to appoint Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the chancellor of all state government universities.

“Today, the state cabinet gave its consent to the proposal to make the chief minister the chancellor of all state-run universities in place of the governor. This proposal will soon be introduced as a bill in the assembly,” State education minister Bratya Basu, who tabled the proposal before the state cabinet, said.

A member of the cabinet said a bill would be introduced in the Assembly to change the chancellor of state universities.  

“Once the bill is passed, it will be sent to the governor’s office for his approval to amend the change as an act. If there is no nod from the governor, an ordinance will be promulgated to amend the change replacing the governor from the key post.’’

West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Mamata have been at loggerheads over a range of issues. 

Last year, a row erupted over suggestions that the governor be replaced from the titular post of Chancellor of state-run universities in West Bengal. 

Dhankar alleged that the state government was making appointments to the vice-chancellor post in various universities without consulting him, and he is being forced to take a strong view of such developments.

The governor, by virtue of his position, is the chancellor of all state-run universities in the state.

Dhankhar had recently locked horns with and the state government over appointment of vice-chancellors (VCs) of state-run varsities amid other issues.

He had alleged that vice-chancellors of "24 universities have been appointed illegally without the chancellor's approval".

In December last year, the governor had expressed anguish after chancellors and vice-chancellors of private universities skipped a meeting called by him at his official residence.

They had expressed inability to attend the meeting citing the COVID-19 situation.

Dhankhar had faced a similar situation in January 2020 when vice-chancellors of state-run universities were invited for a meeting.

Basu had last year said that it was time to introspect whether there was a "need to continue with the colonial legacy" of getting the governor to hold the post of chancellor.

Meanwhile, condemning the cabinet move, BJP national secretary Anupam Hazra claimed that 14th-century Delhi Sultan Muhammad Bin Tuglaq, often referred to as a tyrant king, "would have felt insecure, had he witnessed the state of affairs in Bengal".

"Today, the state cabinet decided that the chief minister will be the chancellor of state-run universities.

Next, it might also decide that the chief minister should be addressed as the prime minister of the state," BJP national secretary Anupam Hazra said.

CPI (M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty, too, slammed the decision as a "reflection of an authoritarian mindset" that seeks to control every lever of power.

The decision evoked mixed response from the educationists, with some describing the move as an infringement on the autonomy of the educational institutions, while others stating that it would help foster better coordination between varsity heads and the government.

Amal Mukhopadhyay, the former principal of Presidency College (before it became a university), said the decision was "uncalled for" and would only "result in erosion of autonomous status of a higher educational institution".

"Effort to make her the chancellor is nothing but a political step. This may only vitiate the academic atmosphere in the institutions," Mukhopadhyay said.

Educationist Pabitra Sarkar said the governor had been shouldering the chancellor's responsibilities in this state for ages, and "now the West Bengal cabinet has taken a decision to reverse that".

"We don't know the reason behind such move. Will it help in improving the academic atmosphere?" he wondered.

Noted historian and indologist Nrisinga Prasad Bhaduri, however, welcomed the decision.

"Everyone knows that the chief minister is concerned about academic developments in West Bengal. It will be in the fitness of things to have someone who has a grasp on the day-to-day matters on the campuses," he added.

Some academicians have described the move as an infringement on the autonomy of the educational institutions, while there are others who said it would help foster better coordination between varsity heads and the government.

Amal Mukhopadhyay, the former principal of Presidency College (before it became a university) said the decision was "uncalled for" and would only "result in erosion of the autonomous status of a higher educational institution".

"Effort to make her the chancellor is nothing but a political step. This may only vitiate the academic atmosphere in the institutions," Mukhopadhyay said.

Educationist Pabitra Sarkar said the governor had been shouldering the chancellor's responsibilities in this state for ages, and "now the West Bengal cabinet has taken a decision to reverse that".

"We don't know the reason behind such move. Will it help in improving the academic atmosphere?" he wondered.

Noted historian and indologist Nrisinga Prasad Bhaduri, however, welcomed the decision.

"Everyone knows that the chief minister is concerned about the academic development in West Bengal. It will be in the fitness of things to have someone who has a grasp on day-to-day matters on the campuses," he added.

A VC of a state-run university, who did not wish to be identified, said that "this move will avert possibilities of rift between varsity authorities and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar".

Tamil Nadu government last month adopted two bills to curb the governor’s power to appoint vice-chancellors to 13 State universities.

In Kerala, a row erupted last year when the state governor Arif Khan complained of political interference in the appointment of vice-chancellors to state-run universities.

Later, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear that the state government does not want to take over the position of the chancellor.

Punchhi commission report 2010

The cabinet’s decision was based on a recommendation by the Punchhi Commission in 2010 that the practice of appointing governors as chancellors of universities be stopped.

(With PTI Inputs)



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