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House heat on ‘iron-fist’ academic

Hyderabad, Nov. 18: The hot seat in the Assembly was occupied in absentia by a vice-chancellor who has been accused of enforcing a chain of controversial decisions ranging from removing portraits of Mahatma Gandhi to disallowing boys and girls from strolling together after sundown.

The Andhra University vice-chancellor, V. Simhadri, has been in the limelight for sometime for his attempt to discipline both students and the staff.

The issue reached the Assembly today and members cutting across party lines demanded a censure after it was alleged that he had ordered the removal of portraits of Mahatma Gandhi from all the offices of the varsity.

The vice-chancellor was quoted as saying that if portraits are allowed, those of “contemporary” leaders should also be added.

State higher education minister Mohammed Farooq told the House that the government proposed to look into the complaints and was ready to appoint an IAS officer to look into the allegations.

“It appears that there was a need for change in attitude and actions of the academician,” the minister told the House. The vice-chancellor could not be contacted for comment.

Simhadri, who was the vice-chancellor of Benaras Hindu University before he took over one of the oldest educational institutions in Andhra Pradesh, had triggered a backlash after he cracked the whip.

Opponents of his style of functioning said he had “unleashed moral policing and sought to enforce Section 144 on the campus”.

They said Simhadri made it taboo for a girl and boy to walk together after 7.30 pm. He had suspended some students and employees for “roaming around” the campus during the “curfew” hours.

Another issue that touched a raw nerve was the vice-chancellor’s decision to cancel the holidays for all post-graduate students during Dussehra. The students were asked to stay back but classes could not be held as the holiday bar did not apply to teachers.

The chaos that erupted during an examination has also helped pile pressure on the vice-chancellor. The alleged failure of the university to provide hall tickets on time for the B.Ed course triggered a confrontation which led to police lathicharge.

The vice-chancellor had introduced a new rule barring students from staying on the campus without end by doing one post-graduation course after the other and set a ceiling of two.

He also decreed that unless a post-graduation student completes the tenure, he would not be given a transfer certificate. “At least 200 post-graduate students lost their gazetted jobs in the state government as the varsity did not issue them transfer certificates,” the Telugu Desam Party’s D.V. Rao told the House.

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