The state government is preparing to change the law to gain greater control over the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), which directs and regulates medical education in Karnataka.
Officials are giving the finishing touches to the draft of an amendment to the RGUHS Act (1994). It will come up for discussion at the Winter Session of the Assembly, beginning on November 25 in Belgaum.
The syndicate is the highest decision-making body of the university, and the government plans to make space in it for bureaucrats from various departments.
Medical Education Minister Sharan Prakash Patil confirmed to Express the draft of the amendment was ready. “I will place it before the Assembly,” he said.
A source said, “Earlier the government was planning to issue an ordinance, but now the minister has decided to take the regular route in the Assembly and have it passed.”
Currently, the syndicate comprises 16 members, including the vice-chancellor. After the amendment, that number will go up to 24, with 11 representing the government.
“The syndicate already has three government representatives, but they are not secretary-level officials,” the source explained. That means, they may not have the weight to push through the government’s agenda.
The amendment will make room for the secretary of medical education and the secretary of health and family welfare, besides the commissioner of medical education and the commissioner of the health and family welfare department.
Academics are worried this will undermine the autonomy of the university.
Dr Chandrashekara Shetty, former vice-chancellor of RGUHS, said, “The government can definitely provide guidelines, but it should not interfere in the university’s administration.”
The syndicate is an academic body, and conventionally, it is not a place for bureaucrats and politicians. It follows the principle that education must be administered by educators.
“The government is planning to place IAS officers in the syndicate, but they are transferred from one department to another, sometimes after just three or four months. I am sure enlightened members in the assembly will oppose this amendment,” Shetty told Express.
“This is the first time the government is trying to control an autonomous institution this way... it sets a bad precedent,” a senior member of the syndicate said.
With so many representatives in the syndicate, the government can bulldoze its way when it comes to making decisions. “If the government nominees number 11, they don’t have to worry about quorum or support from other members,” an official said. Any proposal now, from any government department, is placed before the syndicate, which is empowered to reject it. The amendment will impact Section 21 and 24 of the RGUHS Act (1994), which deal with the constitution of the syndicate. A former registrar of RGUHS said the move would affect the varsity adversely.