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Historic strike on ‘headless’ campus

Around 800 employees of BIT-Mesra launched an indefinite strike from Thursday, in what is being seen as the biggest campus protest that has blown the lid off serious administrative lacunae for the first time in the premier deemed university’s 58-year-old history.

Teaching and non-teaching employees, under The BIT Employees’ Association banner, sat before the main administrative building from 8am, charging the management with discrepancies in recruitment and admissions, campus lawlessness and “wayward administration”.

Rather than engage protesters in dialogue, acting vice chancellor D. Sasmal and acting registrar A.K. Nanda put in their papers.

Protesters termed these resignations as “refusal to take responsibility” and said this was endemic in this “headless institution”.

“Problems started since A. Chakraborty was appointed vice chancellor in May 2010. He is hardly here. There is complete chaos in the absence of a hands-on V-C,” a protester claimed, adding their fast-cum-demonstration on Wednesday went unheeded, spurring the strike a day later.

The “headless” university — everyone unanimously said Chakraborty was hardly there — led to four registrars resigning in one year and acting vice chancellors changing every fortnight due to internal politics, they said.

But mysteriously, despite the absence of a head, penalty is swift.

The Telegraph accessed the copy of a letter dated October 17, 2012, in which three apparently unauthorised and illegal signatories ‘terminated’ the services of Hari Singh, the cradle’s accounts officer.

The letter reads that it is on the order of “the competent authority” that Singh is “released from your job”. But it doesn’t specify who the competent authority is.

No one among the protesters knew who “ghost-directed” orders.

“Whoever raises voice against any malpractice is either suspended or transferred without notice, explanation or justification. We can’t approach anyone for anything. Is this a university or a lawless land?” said protester and biotechnology department head A.S. Vidyarthi.

He was recently transferred “without reason” to BIT (Patna extension) where biotechnology department doesn’t exist. “What will I do there?” he asked The Telegraph.

Fellow professor and association secretary Jyoti Singh was suspended on Wednesday “for protesting”.

“Don’t we have the right to protest for the good of our institution? For a long time we have been trying to talk to someone from the management who can attend to our demands. We will call off the strike right now if someone comes to hear out our problems,” Singh said.

Another professor added that extension centres in Lalpur, Patna, Allahabad and Noida were in a shambles. “No proper placements, no medical allowances for students and teachers, poor accommodation and food are genuine problems. Students come here to study, not to get frustrated over food,” he said.

Protesters added they were well aware that BIT-Mesra reopened after winter vacation on Wednesday, but of the 5,000-plus students here, 80 per cent had not returned.

“We don’t want to lose valuable teaching man hours. But our problems have exceeded the limit of patience. All we get are terminations with proxy signatures. Internal problems till date have never been made public or even reached BIT trustees. Only the media can now take up the matter and get a response from the management,” he added.

Acting vice chancellor Sasmal, who resigned, said it was “completely due to personal reasons.” On the protest, he said: “Not that everyone is hiding. Members of the management were brainstorming. We will soon solve the crisis.”

Aditya Swaroop, principal secretary to governor (chancellor of universities), said: “Raj Bhavan officially does not have any information on this matter.”

Chakraborty could not be reached despite several attempts.

Will administrative laxity rob BIT-Mesra of its lustre?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com


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