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Lone option for Presi VC

The state government is left with only one candidate — Anuradha Lohia of Bose Institute — for appointment to the post of full-term vice-chancellor of Presidency University because the other two shortlisted candidates are unwilling to take up the assignment.

The search committee set up to prepare a shortlist of candidates for the post had recommended three names — Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Lohia and Sumantra Chattarji, in that order.

Physicist Bhattacharya, whose name was announced as the first full-term Presidency VC on April 10, wrote to the governor on Tuesday, expressing his inability to accept the offer.

Chattarji, the director of the Centre for Brain Development and Repair in Bangalore, told Metro on Wednesday: “Even if I was offered the post, I would have declined it. I was appointed director of the centre in March and cannot quit the centre at this stage.”

The neurobiologist had on Tuesday said he came to know from news reports that his name figured among the VC probables.

Sources close to Lohia said the professor of bio-chemistry might not be averse to accept the offer.

The unwillingness of the two shortlisted candidates has raised the question why the search committee had not sounded them out before sending the list to the governor, also chancellor of the university. The search panel was headed by UGC chairman Ved Prakash and had Presidency chief mentor Sugata Bose and mentor Nayanjot Lahiri as the other members.

“Bhattacharya has declined the offer as his consent was not taken before including his name in the panel. Now the third choice is saying he won’t take up the job even if offered. He, too, came to know about his candidature from news reports,” said an education department official.

“We fail to understand what the search committee did all these days if the availability of the VC probables was not checked,” the official added.

The search committee was constituted on January 20 and the committee met twice in Delhi before sending its panel in late-March to governor M.K. Narayanan, the chancellor of the university, to make the final choice.

“The search committee was supposed to consult and seek consent from the VC probables it was naming,” a senior education department official said.

“Since all the three candidates on the shortlist had been nominated by other academics — none of them had applied by themselves — it was all the more important that their availability be verified before their names were sent. But Bhattacharya’s refusal and Chattarji’s unavailability have landed us in embarrassment,” said an official.

Ved Prakash, the head of the search panel, was unavailable for comments.

“The chancellor has the discretion to pick the name of any one from the panel of three as the VC. While appointing the vice-chancellor of the Bengal Engineering & Science University (Besu) and Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), he picked the panel’s third choice. But in Presidency he does not have option as Lohia is the only available candidate and he wants her to take charge from May 16,” added the official.

The extended tenure of the first VC Malabika Sarkar is ending on May 15.

Sources added the chancellor has asked the higher education secretary Vivek Kumar to consult Lohia, a 1976 physiology graduate from the erstwhile Presidency College so that she could be appointed at the earliest.

Lohia who completed her schooling from Modern High School joined the Bose Institute as the lecturer in 1989. Sources added the former CEO of India Wellcome Trust- an independent, public charitable trust based in India established by the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the Government of India's Department of Biotechnology to build global centres of excellence in biomedical research in India- could be asked to join from the first week of May before the extended tenure of the first vice-chancellor terminates on May 15.

If for some reason the chancellor wants a wider choice, more embarrassment would be heaped on the search panel.

“If no one from the panel’s list is found suitable on account of procedural lapses such as verifying the availability of the probables, it would mean a loss of face both for the governor and the government,” said a senior official.

The chancellor had restricted Malabika Sarkar’s tenure up to May 15 overruling the state government’s recommendation for extending her stay up to October. The department made the recommendation in February.

He did this even after the chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced in a programme that Sarkar would remain in office till October.

“So he wants to stick to the deadline,” said the official.