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Munda bats for agri VC

- Pandey paid a price for refusing to clear Raj Bhavan bills
BJP leaders Arjun Munda (left) and Sarayu Roy at the news meet in Ranchi on Saturday. Picture by Hardeep Singh

Ranchi, June 28: Former chief minister Arjun Munda today took up cudgels on behalf of Birsa Agriculture University (BAU) vice chancellor, claiming he was ousted by the governor as he refused to give in to unjustified demands of Raj Bhavan.

Circulating copies of official letters, purportedly issued by Raj Bhavan, to mediapersons at a news conference, Munda claimed that M.P. Pandey was stripped of his powers because he refused to clear a bill of over Rs 2 lakh due to a tent house for having provided services during a rose show held at Raj Bhavan.

Munda’s revelation comes amid an unseemly controversy over the axing of Pandey at the behest of agriculture minister Yogendra Sao, on whose recommendation Governor Syed Ahmed issued an order on June 18 to “freeze” all powers of the vice chancellor, barring him from taking any decision or signing any document pertaining to the university.

Raj Bhavan also named retired high court judge Vikramaditya Prasad to conduct a probe into the allegations against Pandey and appointed South Chotanagpur division commissioner K.K. Khandelwal to take charge of day-to-day affairs of BAU.

A report published in The Telegraph on June 27 threw light on a possible misuse of ministerial privilege by Sao and why his disapproval of the vice chancellor may not have had anything to do with Pandey’s professional competence in running the university.

Titled “Agri varsity pays for minister’s farmers’’, the report exposed how the agriculture university, beset by cash and manpower crunch, has been paying for at least seven BAU contractual labourers working as gardeners at the minister’s official residence in Ranchi for the last seven months.

While Sao has been evasive about this practice, he has come in for widespread criticism from political leaders, including those from his own Congress party.

Today, Munda was joined by fellow BJP leader Sarayu Roy when he presented to the media three letters, which sought to establish more instances of apparent misuse of the state university’s resources at the behest of its guardians.

The letters were all addressed to the vice chancellor.

The first letter, issued on March 3, 2013, by Aradhana, an officer on special duty (OSD) at Raj Bhavan, directs the BAU vice chancellor to make a payment of Rs 2.78 lakh to Verma Tent House for services rendered during a rose show in February 2013.

To justify her demand, the OSD refers to a decision taken at a meeting presided over by the principal secretary to the governor on December 12, 2012.

The second letter, issued on February 6 this year by the same officer, directs the vice chancellor to depute 10 women workers to maintain a garden at Raj Bhavan. In the letter, the officer takes exception to BAU withdrawing staff, suggesting that Raj Bhavan was well within its right to have the university’s staff on deputation.

The third letter, issued on July 1, also by Aradhana, seeks 20 BAU staffers on deputation.

In the letter, the officer also takes exception to BAU reducing the number of staffers from 17 to nine on the given date, once again suggesting that Raj Bhavan was being denied what was essentially its right.

Munda alleged the letters proved that the university’s resources were being misused.

“The BAU vice chancellor was targeted as he did not fulfil the undue demands of Raj Bhavan of misusing resources of university for its own work. The matter will be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister and the President of India,” he said.


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