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Congress delinks meddling and objection

New Delhi, June 26: The Congress has not accepted the Centre’s assertion that it was not trying to interfere in the affairs of the autonomous Delhi University, contending that higher education regulator UGC had changed its stand on the four-year undergraduate programme under political pressure.

“The very decision of the UGC to ask Delhi University to scrap the four-year programme (FYUP) on the ground that it violates the 10+2+3 format suggests political expediency rather than application of mind,” former minister of state for human resource development Shashi Tharoor told The Telegraph today.

“I am surprised why this objection was not raised earlier when the FYUP was being rolled out.”

Claiming that the entire issue had been mishandled by the current HRD ministry, Tharoor said the only reason the previous UPA government did not overrule the decision to implement the FYUP was the “principle of autonomy”.

He admitted that the HRD ministry under the previous government had been “under tremendous pressure” to stop the four-year programme as some people strongly felt it was ill prepared and not properly thought through but “we only did two things: asked the UGC if the procedures had been followed and urged the vice-chancellor to meet with his critics and try to address their concerns”.

“Politicians and bureaucrats have no business of violating the autonomy of institutions,” Tharoor said. “What is happening now with DU is not good for its autonomy. What if an RSS-minded person occupies a key post in the UGC and tries to tamper with the syllabus? The best way is to leave it to the academics and the minister should never interfere. We did the same thing. Pallam Raju (the then cabinet minister for human resource development) and I tried to address the issues raised by both groups in a reasonable and responsive manner.”

The FYUP concept had been initiated when Kapil Sibal was HRD minister. The objective was to align the DU course with global standards.

Former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari was critical of the way the sensitive issue has been handled. “It’s a very unfortunate incident,” he said a few days ago.

“When there was talk of making the three-year course four (years), there was a lot of turmoil among students and lecturers. But then, too, DU went ahead with it. Now the UGC is again reducing it back to three years. But where was the UGC when this decision was taken as the chairman is the same. This shows how the NDA government is playing with the lives of students. The UGC should have taken the decision in a proper manner by forming a committee. With such incidents, they are making the university a laughing stock.”

Surprisingly, the Congress’s official response has been entirely different. Spokespersons have avoided speaking on the raging controversy and meekly supported scrapping of the four-year course.

Asked why the Congress had changed its stand, spokesperson Shobha Oza said: “The NSUI conducted a survey and found that the majority of the students were opposed to it (the FYUP).”

The NSUI, the party’s student wing, went on a hunger strike on the university premises to force a rollback of the FYUP. While senior Congress leaders are criticising the government for its interference, the NSUI, ironically, has been burning effigies of HRD minister Smriti Irani for lack of action on rolling back the FYUP.

Several Delhi Congress leaders had joined the NSUI protest.