Delhi University saw its worst days last week. The hoary centre of learning has become an arena for a fratricidal battle between factions vying for control as a listless vice-chancellor despite being on sick bed refuses to let go of control.
Offshoots belonging to the same ideological family have come out daggers drawn in an ugly show of power play, in the process casting to dustbin university’s glorious traditions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has often been alleged to be unkind to such seats of learning which are controlled by intellectuals committed to ideologies different from cultural nationalism practised by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The crisis at Delhi University, however, is different.
Factions from the same ideological family, owing allegiance to cultural nationalism, are out playing dirty games in the process jeopardizing the teaching-learning environment on the campus. The whole fight is about which faction gets its foot soldiers appointed to the positions lying vacant for the past five years. A case needs to be made against the eminent scholars who were part of the President-appointed search committee which short-listed the name of the incumbent Yogesh Kumar Tyagi as vice-chancellor.
His tenure would make a perfect case study of how to destroy a university, which has been existing with some eminence for nearly a century now, in the matters of five years. The vice-chancellor of Delhi University functions with a team, which is sometimes referred to as his cabinet, consisting of a Pro-VC, several deans, directors and a well laid-out secretariat headed by the Registrar. Tyagi has had a ‘magical’ tenure, which is, fortunately, coming to an end now, where he has functioned without a team or a proper secretariat.
After he took ill last summer needing hospitalization, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry prevailed on him to appoint a team, which could function during the period of his absence. While with much reluctance he appointed the team, he initially refused to delegate powers; however, he was forced to do so to let the system remain functional.
The team incidentally functioned to its potential during the vice-chancellor’s absence. It strongly took up the case of the Delhi Government funded colleges, leading to the partial release of funds and payment of part salaries held for months. For the first time in the past five years, DU finally had a dean of colleges who could inter logui with the state government on its behalf. This led to the comparisons on how limp has been Tyagi’s tenure so far.
The held-up process of long-pending promotions of the teachers, settlement of pensions and other service-related matters were taken up. The officiating team actively interacted with the HRD Ministry in resolving the issues and probably the process of appointment of permanent teachers on the vacant posts could have also begun. Appointments are the pie where every faction of the Delhi University wants to have a share.
Given the prevailing political environment, it was clear that the lion’s share in the pie would go to groups wedded to the ideology of cultural nationalism. But which right-wing group would have a monopoly became the bone of contention? Thus, what followed was acrimony of most loathsome genres. The fratricide war of Mahabharat had taken place for the glory of Hastinapur.
Here the factions of the same ideological family, however, spilt blood to drown the glory of Delhi University. It has become a case of robbers fighting over the spoils even before the loot was committed.
The Delhi University is currently past its prime. It makes the headlines for a few days during the admission season and this year even that has been overtaken by the obnoxious development on the campus. The loss of prestige of this glorious centre could come sooner than expected if those professing loyalty to its legacy do not overcome their respective lust for lucre.
Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice