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Staff call strike against VC term extension

Siliguri, Dec. 20: The non-teaching staff at North Bengal University has called a strike on Thursday to protest the three-month extension of vice-chancellor Arunabha Basumajumdar’s tenure, alleging that it will be a hindrance to fulfilling their demands.

The strike will be on the same day when a three-member expert committee on higher education, led by Abhirup Sarkar, is expected to visit the university to look into the grievances of the teaching and non-teaching staff.

Education minister Bratya Basu had announced the visit in Siliguri last week though varsity sources said there had been no official confirmation yet. “We had been told over the phone but nothing official has come yet,” said a source.

The NBU unit of the All Bengal University Teachers’ Association, too, is not happy with the extension.

The teachers’ association said enough evidence of the “administrative and financial irregularities” had been provided to a nine-member Assembly standing committee that had visited the varsity on November 2.

The protesting teachers claimed that Sugata Marjit, chairman of the West Bengal Higher Education Council, had verified the documents given to him on November 29.

“He had agreed that our allegations were justified. Under the circumstances, we are surprised that his tenure has been extended,” said Ajit Roy, the vice-president of the NBU unit of the ABUTA.

The North Bengal Employees’ Association said Basumajumdar did not fulfil the basic requirement of 10 years’ experience as professor or equivalent rank, a criterion for appointment of VCs in the new ordinance for universities.

“We called the strike for two reasons. First, we have been on the path of agitation for six weeks but the VC is not looking into our demands. Second, he does not fulfil the basic requirement of 10 years experience as professor,” said D.P. Boot, the secretary of the employees association said.

Around 300 of 480 employees had been demonstrating for the past six weeks demanding the implementation of a resolution adopted by the previous Executive Council on March 22 regarding their promotions and recruitment of the kin of those who died in harness.

The state higher education department yesterday informed Basumajumdar in a faxed message that his tenure had been extended by three months beginning from January 1 as his successor was yet to be chosen. The VC, who joined office on January 1, 2008, was supposed to retire on December 31.

The employees had started their protest from November 9. Initially, they had blocked the VC’s entry to office. Later they lifted the blockade but continued with the sit-in demonstration.

The association members resumed the blockade on December 1, saying that if they allowed Basumajumdar entry, he would try to tamper with documents that are evidence of his wrong-doings.

“The VC has flouted rules stipulated in the NBU Act 1981. He has disregarded the EC and taken important decisions arbitrarily. The VC has spent lakhs of rupees on legal issues without taking the EC’s consent which is essential. We have not allowed him entry apprehending he might destroy all evidences against him,” Boot said.

Basumajumdar was unavailable for comments.