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Graduate ‘signal’ to colleges

Calcutta, Aug. 18: The Bengal government today made a bachelor’s degree the minimum qualification for its nominees to college governing bodies, a move that threatens the position of several Trinamul leaders now on such panels.

“Government nominees and university nominees to a governing body have to be graduates. I have given my consent on this matter,” education minister Partha Chatterjee said, adding that the official order would be issued soon.

University nominees have rarely been non-graduates but today’s decision on the government nominees is the first attempt by the state government at setting an education bar for those framing policies for educational institutions.

However, it doesn’t mean the axe will fall on Arabul Islam, the former Trinamul MLA who studied only till Class X but is president of the Bhangar Mahavidyalaya college’s governing body.

Once the government issues the order, the non-graduate government representatives in college governing bodies will have to resign or will be removed, an official said.

But Arabul, who was in the news two years ago when he allegedly abused the college’s teachers and his gesticulating arm sent a jug crashing into a teacher’s chin, made the panel as an “eminent person of the locality” and not as a government nominee.

Trinamul now has party leaders in almost every college governing body but not all of them fail the graduation test. For instance, MLA Sashi Panja, government nominee for SA Jaipuria College and Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, is a doctor.

But MLA Kasturi Das, mayor Sovan Chatterjee’s mother-in-law and government nominee for Maheshtala College, is “eighth pass”, according to NGO National Election Watch.

Asked about Arabul, Partha Chatterjee said it was not within his rights to set an educational criterion for the governing body president.

“That is the discretion of the governing body. I can’t curb a college’s right to decide who becomes its governing body president,” the minister said.

“(But) four members in a governing body is quite a number. When we are sending a message by setting a minimum educational qualification for our nominees, we can expect the colleges will respect our intention and good sense will prevail.”

He added that today’s government decision would help “convey the message that those really interested in education should get priority”.

College governing bodies ordinarily have 13 members: four elected teachers, two elected non-teaching employees, a student representative, the principal, two university nominees, two state government nominees and one ex-officio member who can be the local municipality chairman, a councillor or the gram panchayat pradhan.

The president is usually chosen by consensus from among the university and government representatives and the ex-officio member. But if there’s no unanimity, an outsider like Arabul may be invited to become the 14th member and president.


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