Calcutta, April 26: A Calcutta University statute enacted by the Left Front in 1979 is the reason behind the latest embarrassment to the Trinamul-led government after Debjani Dey, a teacher of Bhangar Mahavidyalaya, accused Arabul Islam, former party MLA from Bhangar, of causing hurt to her during an altercation.
Asked what he was doing at the staff room, Arabul, president of the college governing body, justified his intervention by describing the institution as “my college”. The Trinamul leader has, however, denied the allegation of assault.
“Such political people (like Arabul) should not have any business with any academic institute…. But it has become a practice in Bengal since the CPM-led government enacted a statute in 1979 to induct politicians into the governing body,” said a CU official.
Following the enactment of sections 93 to 99 of the Calcutta University First Statues of 1979, the composition of a governing body and the method of choosing its head changed.
“What the Left did then was like nationalising colleges and which resulted in declining standards in higher education as politicians started calling the shots,” said a retired principal of a city college.
Since the 1979 statute kicked in, the governing body of a college has two university nominees, two nominees of the higher education department, the local civic councillor or the panchayat pradhan, the chief of the college students’ union, two (elected) non-teaching employees and four (elected) teachers. The statute also allowed governing bodies thefreedom to induct any outsider, who could contest an election to head the committee.
The former Bhangar MLA — whose affidavit for the 2011 Assembly polls says he is “10th Pass” — used this route and became president of the governing body in January 2012 after winning the election.
“Prior to 1979, there was no concept of any election. The local councillor had no role in GB (governing body), which comprised two elected teachers, two nominees each from the government and university and the principal. The board used to unanimously select one of the members, other than the teachers and the principal, or some eminent academician from outside as president,” said a retired CU registrar.
According to him, the statute was brought under instructions of the education czars at Alimuddin Street who wanted to control higher education. “CPM leaders like Promode Dasgupta and Anil Biswas wanted to pack the boards with party sympathisers and that’s why the statute was brought in.”
A look at the list of presidents of governing bodies in colleges in and around Calcutta reveals that despite the promise of depoliticising higher education, Trinamul is carrying on with the CPM’s legacy of planting political appointees in college governing bodies.
“The Alimuddin nominees, however, never caused any embarrassment for the party because they followed the procedures. In the present dispensation, keeping control over the political appointees will be difficult,” said a CU official.
Arabul told The Telegraph yesterday that some of the teachers — whom he referred to as “CPM agents” — got agitated when he enquired about their performance in class. He said Dey misbehaved with him when he was talking about the problem of absenteeism among a section of teachers.
“As the governing body president, Arabul had the right to address such issues. But the process he followed was wrong…. Such aberrations would not have happened in the Left regime,” said the official.
“I have told the teachers of my college to take classes properly. There will be no problem…. I have also requested the principal to convene a governing body meeting,” Arabul said.
“The problem at the Bhangar college is a crude reminder that the time has come for depoliticising college campuses. Unless the new government changes such draconian statutes, people like Arabul will continue to meddle with college affairs. Colleges should have the freedom to select academicians of repute for their governing bodies,” said the principal of a city college.
He also stressed the need for fixing minimum academic criteria for members and presidents of governing bodies.