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Sen bats for Presi VC’s long innings

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said on Tuesday he had “advised” a longer extension for Presidency University vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar and added in response to a question that it was “obviously” meant for the good of the institution.

“I am confirming that I had advised (Presidency) mentor group chairman Sugata Bose that her term be extended for eight months. I heard that the governor hasn’t done that. I won’t say anything on this,” said Sen, the adviser to the chair of the mentor group.

Asked if an eight-month extension would have been good, Sen said: “Isn’t it obvious? Otherwise, why should I offer an advice? Why should I advise someone to do something bad?”

Sen’s reaction comes a week after governor M.K. Narayanan, the chancellor of the university, extended Sarkar’s tenure for only three months, overruling the state government’s recommendation for an eight-month extension till October 6.

Sen was speaking at the National Library, on the sidelines of the release of Transforming our Cities, a book on the challenges of urbanisation by Isher Judge Ahluwalia, economist and a member of the Presidency mentor group.

VC Malabika Sarkar sat by Sen as he spoke.

During the book release, Sen lauded Sarkar. “She is a good vice-chancellor. We thank her for doing all that she is doing for Presidency.”

Ahluwalia went a step further: “If we have come this far, the credit principally goes to VC Malabika Sarkar.” The compliment came in the middle of questions from the audience directed at the author.

Asked later whether he would continue to advise the mentor group, Sen said: “It is for the mentor group to decide. Here I was asked whether I gave advice to Sugata Bose on (the VC’s) extension up to October, I confirmed. Then I was asked whether an eight-month extension would have been good, I explained obviously such an extension would have been good.”

The governor’s apparent refusal to grant the extension till October was widely seen as an indication that he wanted the university’s first full-term head to be appointed at the earliest.

The higher education department issued a notification last week announcing that VC Sarkar’s term has been extended by three months (till May 15) or until the appointment of a full-term vice-chancellor, “whichever is earlier”.

Mentor group chairman Sugata Bose told Metro from New Delhi: “I agree with what professor Sen has said. We had drawn up the proposal for the eight-month extension as Sen had suggested that Sarkar be given extension till October as she was running the institute efficiently. Such an extension would have paved the way for the orderly transition and search for the full-term VC.”

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, had said after laying the foundation stone for the New Town campus of Presidency on February 5 that Sarkar would continue as VC till October 6.

An official said the governor believed three months was enough time to find a suitable successor for Sarkar. “He believes that since the search committee has already convened its first meeting on March 18, it should not take more than the middle of May to conclude the search and name three probables. The chancellor will pick the full-term VC from the list of three,” added the official.

Another section of officials said a longer extension for Sarkar was needed to give her more time to draw the rules and regulations and constitute the governing board, which would be Presidency’s lone decision-making body.