|Abhijit Chakrabarti (circled), then vice-chairman of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education and current interim vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University, at the foundation day programme of the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad on Mayo Road on August 27, 2013. Picture on left shows Chakrabarti being wrapped in an uttariya at the programme.
Event: The foundation day programme of the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad (TMCP), the student wing of the Trinamul Congress
Date: August 27, 2013
Present: Mamata Banerjee, chief minister
Also present and recipient of uttariya in party colours: Abhijit Chakrabarti, then vice-chairman of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education
Current position: Interim VC of Jadavpur University
Latest assignment: Probe cash-for-seats allegations in a BEd college that was affiliated to Kalyani University
One of the accused: Trinamul Chhatra Parishad leader Tanmay Acharya
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all in Calcutta?
Mirror: Must be Abhijit Chakrabarti.
Why else would the Mamata Banerjee government overlook the inconvenient detail that he had graced the foundation day event of the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) last year and ask him to probe a scandal in which a TMCP leader himself is an accused?
Chakrabarti now has the golden chance to prove that he is not at all swayed by such political programmes and can submit a report that will help clean up Kalyani University.
The clean-up drive was spearheaded by Kalyani vice-chancellor Rattan Lal Hangloo, following which he has been accused of forcing students to lodge false complaints against TMCP leaders to malign the state government.
The accusation was heaped on Hangloo by Shankudeb Panda, the state president of the very student wing that had wrapped Chakrabarti in an uttariya at the programme last year.
But Chakrabarti is unfazed and is banking on his skills at “compartmentalisation”.
“An administrator can always have his political views. But when it comes to discharging a professional and administrative responsibility, the views should not come in the way. As the JU vice-chancellor, no one can say that I have been politically biased. With the same degree of commitment, I will conduct the probe at Kalyani University. I know how to compartmentalise roles,” Chakrabarti told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
Chakrabarti visited Kalyani University in the morning and met vice-chancellor Hangloo. Chakrabarti will visit the Bhaktabala BEd college and meet students and their parents, sources in the university said.
Hangloo, who left for Harrisburg in the US this evening on a personal trip, said: “I have no intention to malign any party or person but felt that if such instances of corruption are not curbed, the educational institutions would have nothing to offer to the future generation.”
At least 32 students have complained in writing that Acharya, the TMCP leader and general secretary of the Kalyani varsity students’ union, had taken money to facilitate BEd admissions to seats that turned out to be unauthorised.
Chakrabarti, who will probe the cash-for-seats scandal, was in the news in 2012 when the vice-chancellor for Jadavpur University was being decided.
In April 2012, Chakrabarti, then a teacher of the erstwhile Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu), was appointed interim VC of JU. A three-member search committee appointed by the state government was then looking for a full-term VC.
M.K. Narayanan, the chancellor, picked a name from a panel of three the search committee had sent but the government sat on the choice. Chakrabarti’s name did not feature among the three.
Later, the higher education department announced the name of then IIT Kharagpur teacher Souvik Bhattacharyya as the Jadavpur VC.
The state government appointed Chakrabarti as vice-chairman of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education in 2012 and he eventually became its chairman. In 2013, the government named Chakrabarti as its nominee to the JU executive council, the university’s highest decision-making body.
The government has shown unwavering faith in Chakrabarti. In February 2013, the government recommended his name and that of two others for the interim VC of Besu. But the chancellor overruled the entire panel.
After Bhattacharyya quit as Jadavpur VC in October 2013, Chakrabarti was re-appointed interim VC for six months. In April, his term was extended for six months or up to the appointment of a full-term VC, whichever is earlier.