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Foreign trip glare on UGC chief

New Delhi, July 2: The human resource development ministry has written to University Grants Commission chairman Ved Prakash seeking details of an apparently unauthorised foreign trip he had made earlier this year.

The ministry says Prakash visited Mauritius on January 29 without taking permission from then minister M.M. Pallam Raju, a claim the UGC chief denies.

The ministry’s vigilance wing is also examining the matter, sources said.

Prakash submitted documents to the ministry on Monday claiming that he had taken permission from the minister. “I had taken approval of the minister for the visit. I have submitted the related documents to the ministry,” he said.

According to norms, any such visit by officials from agencies under the government has to be cleared by the minister concerned.

Prakash had visited Mauritius as UGC chief to renew the Consortium Agreement with the island nation’s Tertiary Education Commission. The agreement, which India and Mauritius signed in 1992 to promote higher education through exchange of faculty and joint research, has to be renewed every three years.

The ministry wrote to Prakash after it did not find any records to suggest that he had taken the approval of the then minister. Sources said when the UGC or any other government agency seeks ministerial clearance for a foreign trip, the file may not be available in the ministry. Such a file is sent to the agency concerned, they said.

It is not clear why the ministry has taken up such a procedural issue and sought a clarification from Prakash in writing.

The UGC chief, who had all along supported Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme during the UPA government, recently changed his stand. Under the new BJP-led government, the UGC acted as the main arm of the HRD ministry, issuing directions to DU every day asking the university to scrap the programme.

Sources said the ministry might also probe DU vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh for alleged diversion of funds. The funds, meant for expanding facilities to implement the OBC quota, were allegedly used to distribute laptops among the first batch of students who had enrolled under the four-year programme.