The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Varsity sigh of relief at Joshi exit
- Autonomous college plan heads for dustbin

Calcutta, June 1: A change of dispensation in Delhi has triggered a change of plans for universities in the state.

Varsity authorities have initiated a process to set aside proposals forwarded by former Union human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, including the one on setting up autonomous colleges.

The universities had interpreted the Centre’s emphasis on autonomy to colleges as an effort to clip their wings.

Another proposal opposed by the state government and the universities was formulation of a model act that would force the varsities to follow a set of uniform administrative and academic guidelines. Joshi’s ministry wanted all states to follow the same norms.

“We are still uncertain about the present status of some of the proposals sent to us by the earlier HRD ministry, like setting up autonomous colleges and formulation of the model act. We will soon hold a meeting and decide our course of action,” said Ashis Kumar Banerjee, the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University.

Sources in several universities said in the past year the BJP-led central government had pressured the state on these two issues but no concrete decision was taken. The authorities chose to delay the process of taking a final stand mainly because the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association (WBCUTA), which is controlled by the CPM, was opposed to the proposals.

In February, Joshi had made his last attempt to pressure the universities. At a notice of just three days, he had asked representatives of Calcutta University and the state government to attend a meeting in Delhi and express its final opinion on autonomous colleges.

The university representatives attended the meeting but refused to disclose a clear stand on the plea that there were certain flaws in the Centre’s guidelines and they could not take a final decision till the anomalies were removed. The varsity failed the deadline to express its view on the model act.

The university and the state government were opposed to the implementation of the act as they felt its provisions were not conducive to a democratic composition of administrative bodies of universities and colleges. Calcutta University sources said the guidelines focused on a greater number of nominated members in the university administrative bodies.

“The Left Front government is in favour of more elected members and so the proposed act’s provisions did not find favour,” a university official said.

The exit of Joshi has also brought relief to about 15,000 employees of various universities. The HRD ministry had suggested that the post of teachers and non-teaching employees be downsized.

Though Calcutta University has not taken any step to implement the proposal, leaders of its employees’ union are hopeful that the scheme to cut down on the size of non-teaching staff members will be dropped as the Congress-led government at the Centre is perceived as “friendly”.

“The BJP-led government would have led the university to a deadlock. We don’t think this government would support its moves,” said S. Ghosal, a leader of the varsity’s CPM-controlled non-teaching employees’ union.

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