Calcutta, Oct. 17: Education minister Bratya Basu today tried to strike a balance between Trinamul MP Saugata Roy’s remarks on the appointment of poorly educated decision-makers in colleges and the home truths of Bengal, where political appointees have been calling the shots in academic institutions for over three decades.
Although Basu did not talk about introducing changes in the constitution of college governing bodies, his attempt to rationalise Roy’s comments indicated that the government might consider amending the rules to form such panels.
“I don’t think all politicians are untouchables. There is nothing wrong in having a politician in a governing body, provided he is not politicking in the decision-making process,” Basu said at a programme in Bangabasi College.
Earlier this month, Roy had said at a programme in Asutosh College, where he had taught physics, he felt ashamed that people educated up to Class VIII were heading college governing bodies. “I feel sick in the pit of my stomach,” the former Union minister had said, referring to recent instances of campus violence.
Although Roy had not taken any names, it was apparent that he was referring to Arabul Islam, the South 24-Parganas Trinamul strongman who became the consensus president of the Bhangar Mahavidyalaya governing body. During an argument at the college earlier this year, Arabul’s gesticulating arm had hit a jug that crashed into a lady teacher’s chin.
Several academicians have held politicisation of educational institutions responsible for such problems. After the change of guard at Writers’, Mamata Banerjee had promised to depoliticise higher education. But Roy’s comments had indicated that the plan still remained a distant dream.
By seeking to draw a distinction between those who do politics in colleges as governing body chiefs and those who don’t, the education minister made it clear that he was trying to tread Mamata’s path.
The members of a governing body — four elected teachers, two elected non-teaching employees, two university nominees, two state government nominees, a local municipality representative or the local councillor, the college principal and the general secretary of the students’ union — select its president.
“In case there is no unanimity on the president, elections are held to the post and the government can do nothing about it,” an education department official said.
The education tsars of Alimuddin Street had introduced the election process to retain control over educational institutions, a move often considered a bane for the system.
“Colleges that have people like Saugata Roy and Ashok Deb (Trinamul MLA from Budge Budge) as governing body presidents have reasons to be proud. But having an MA or MSc degree does not mean that someone is highly qualified. Similarly, one who does not have degrees can’t be labelled as less qualified,” Basu said.
To buttress his point, the minister added without naming Tagore: “Everybody knows that the person whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated this year did not attend college or university. Therefore, what is worth considering is if the person (governing body president) is concerned about the college and has a stake in its development.”
Basu also referred to cricket. “Suppose if the BCCI decides that one has to score over 5,000 runs and get 100 wickets to represent the eastern region on the board, there would be only one eligible candidate,” he said, hinting that only Sourav Ganguly would make the cut.
Although Basu’s comments could be viewed as a rebuttal of Roy’s remarks, the education minister said during an interview with ABP Ananda later in the evening that the MP had raised a pertinent question. “There is a need for more discussion on the issue,” Basu said.