The Telegraph
Saturday , May 10 , 2014
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VC row sets off academic alarm

Ranchi, May 9: The rift between Raj Bhavan and the Hemant Soren-led government over appointment of four vice chancellors and a pro-VC has worried academics past and present who fear the future of students may be jeopardised in the process.

Septuagenarian Amal Chakrabarty, a retired chemistry professor of Ranchi University, rued that Jharkhand’s varsities lacked both infrastructure and ambience to attract students.

“So, the government must first focus on improving facilities, as well as quality of teaching. Vacancies must be filled to better the student-teacher ratio,” he said.

Chakrabarty’s remarks are not unwarranted. All the five state varsities, including greenhorn Kolhan University, have a dismal academic track record.

Sido Kanhu Murmu University (SKMU) in Dumka was established in 1992, after being carved out of Bhagalpur University in unified Bihar. Twenty-two years on, it still functions from a temporary address at Santhal Academy while some departments have found shelter on SP College campus in the same town, which is touted as Jharkhand’s second capital. No groundwork has been done at the proposed permanent campus site in Dighi, on the outskirts of Dumka.

English mentor at SP College Prashant (he uses only his first name) said the government’s habit of passing the buck had become detrimental to academic health.

“There is no accountability. No one is ready to take responsibility. Until the year 2000, there were 100 teachers in this college. Today, there are 37 while the number of students has increased manifold. Higher education must go beyond classroom teaching. But here, neither students nor teachers have the scope for global exposure,” Prashant said.

He added that objectives and responsibilities were never fixed as far as offices of vice chancellors, HRD minister and secretary and higher education director were concerned. “The controversy over vice chancellor appointment may further hamper studies.”

It is not just SKMU that is awaiting its own address. Kolhan University in Chaibasa and Nilamber-Pitamber University (NPU) in Daltonganj — both carved out of Ranchi University some five years ago — too function from temporary campuses.

Chakrabarty underscored that the tug-of-war between the government and Raj Bhavan was very unhealthy. “The entire academic atmosphere is being vitiated.”

He, however, tacitly supported HRD minister Geetashree Oraon’s argument that tribal academics should have been granted preference. “My fear is if the incumbents (appointed by Raj Bhavan) do not get co-operation, it will imperil the spirit of higher education.”

A senior professor of Ranchi University, on the condition of anonymity, rued that no one in the state government was bothered about the quality of teaching and research work at varsities. “The institutes have became like agencies that churn out certificates instead of quality students. PhDs have become a farce,” he said.