KANNUR: In his first response after Governor Arif Mohammed Khan's scathing attack on political interference in the functioning of universities, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday denied the allegations and said at no point did he or the government try to usurp the powers of the chancellor.
Speaking to reporters in Kannur, where he attended the CPM District Conference, the Chief Minister denied political intervention in the appointment of vice-chancellors in universities even as Governor Khan continued his attack on the Kerala government's interventions in vice-chancellor appointments in universities.
Pinarayi's comments follow the public outburst by the governor, who is also the chancellor of universities, criticising what he termed blatant political interference in the appointment of VCs in universities and asked the CM to amend the Acts of the universities and take over as chancellor of universities. Last Wednesday, Khan had also written a letter to the CM pointing out the increasing political interference in the appointments in the higher education sector.big controversy, it is the duty of the government to clarify the issue before the public," said Pinarayi.
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Ruling out the political intervention, Pinarayi said the VC appointments were made as per the recommendations of the search committee. In his nearly hour-long presser, Pinarayi also laid out the steps taken by his government to strengthen the state's higher education sector, which he admitted was by no means perfect.
Clarifying the government’s stand, the CM said it is not the government’s policy to clash with the governor. The CM said the government is ready to have a discussion with any of the issues being raised by the governor. “We are not adamant on any issues. Governor should not relinquish the post bestowed upon him by the assembly. He should continue in the post of Chancellor and should give guidelines to the government’s and universities’ attempts to take the higher education sector to further heights. We have requested his support from him on this”, he said.
Since the governor had gone public regarding the controversy, the government has been forced to give a reply in public, said Pinarayi. “It is the government’s policy to empower the higher education sector in the state. The sector should be improved and empowered from what it is now. As far as this is concerned, we believe, both the governor and government have the same opinion, said the CM.
In general, both the government and the governor share the same opinion regarding the need to improve the standard of higher education in the state. "While trying to implement the ideas regarding this, there might arise some differences of opinions. When such differences occur, they should be resolved through effective communication. The letter written by the governor to the government should be seen as such a routine affair that takes place at the administrative level," said Pinarayi. But, the media had misinterpreted the reactions of the governor and had presented it before the public as a big controversy. Since it has become a big controversy, it is the duty of the government to clarify the issue before the public," said Pinarayi.
Regarding the allegations against the higher education sector, mentioned in the governor's letter, the CM said the government had taken the issues seriously and had given a reply to him on the same day itself. This was given directly to the governor by the chief secretary and additional chief secretary (finance).
Following this, the finance minister visited the governor along with the chief secretary and other officials and listened to the governor regarding this issue. "Since I was in Kannur, I could not meet him in person. But, had talked to him over the phone”, said Pinarayi.
Those who had assumed the top offices in the universities in Kerala are experts in the field of education, said the CM. If you take the history of the appointments made during the LDF rule in the past, you could see that the VCs selected by the LDF governments were extremely qualified to lead the education sector in the state, he said. “People like UR Ananthamoorthy, Michael Tharakan, Rajan Gurukkal, NP Unni and KN Panikker are only a few names to be mentioned”, said Pinarayi.
Taking a dig at the UDF, the CM said it is ironic to see that some people, who appointed a VC who did not have even a day’s teaching experience, are extremely worried about the quality of education in the higher education sector.
VCs are being appointed by search-cum selection committees formed following UGC norms. The government nominees in this committee are highly respected and qualified academicians like Professor VK Ramachandran and Professor Rajan Gurukkal. "Terming their appointments as political is illogical and factually incorrect," said Pinarayi. It is the names suggested by such committees which are being considered for the post of VC. Governor has every right to express his opinions regarding this. But, it is not quite right to say that all the appointments are being done by the Chief Minister or any other ministers, CM said.
He said some vested interests have been deliberately trying to push back the attempts of the government to take the education sector forward. It is quite unfortunate that the stand taken by the governor would fuel such attempts. "I believe that the governor would realize this. A stand like this, which would give encouragement to those who try to pull back the development initiatives in the education sector, should not have happened from the governor’s side," said Pinarayi.
At no stage, the government had demanded the governor to take a decision against his conscience. It is a natural process to intimate the government’s opinion to the chancellor. It is the chancellor who should take a decision considering the merit of the issue. He is free to use his power. But, it is not the responsibility of the government to shoulder the blame for a decision taken by the governor which he had taken fearing criticisms from some corners, Pinaryi said.
The government has no intention to take over the post of chancellor of the universities. The VCs are being appointed to lead the universities in an excellent manner. They should be given the freedom to do that. That is the policy of the government. Governor should continue as the chancellor of the universities. We think that he would withdraw his decision to relinquish that position, said Pinarayi.
In a democracy, it is the people who have the power. The government is trying to implement the wishes of the people, said Pinarayi.