The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 18 , 2014
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Smriti scanner on UPA pre-poll picks
Due-process check lined up

Smriti Irani

New Delhi, June 17: Smriti Irani has asked for details of appointments made by the Congress-led UPA government in educational institutions in the run-up to the elections.

The Union human resource development minister has also sought information on current heads of organisations that fall under the ministry and their tenures, The Telegraph has learnt, suggesting the individuals were under scrutiny.

Sources said Smriti would examine whether due procedures were followed in the pre-election appointments. Educationist and RSS member Dina Nath Batra had written to Smriti a few weeks ago suggesting the possibility of bias in the planned appointment of some vice-chancellors.

Around 100 institutions function under the HRD ministry. These include 40 central universities, 16 IITs, 13 IIMs and autonomous bodies such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

Among those picked before the elections were Talat Ahmed and Sukhdeo Thorat. Ahmed was named the vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University in April and Thorat re-appointed chairperson of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) in March.

A search panel set up by the ministry — comprising former Supreme Court judge Aftab Alam, Jamia Hamdard vice-chancellor G.N. Qazi and UGC chief Ved Prakash — had shortlisted professors Syed E. Hasnain, S.M. Sajid and Ahmed for the Jamia Millia top job.

President Pranab Mukherjee, the visitor of the university, picked Ahmed on the recommendation of the search panel.

Thorat was re-appointed by then HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju. While the ICSSR post is honorary and appointments are made by the minister on the basis of nominations from the higher education department within the ministry, the move to retain Thorat may come under the scrutiny of the Modi government as it was done after the polls were announced.

Thorat was first appointed ICSSR head in April 2011. Before that, he had served as UGC chairman from February 2006 to February 2011.

The ministry had also started the process of appointing the vice-chancellors of the 12 central universities before the polls. Most search panels had suggested some names. But the Smriti-headed ministry has put the process on hold after complaints about irregularities in setting up the search panels.

Batra, the RSS member, had said in his letter to Smriti that the exercise to pick vice-chancellors should be started afresh. He alleged that some members of a few search panels had ties to the Congress and, therefore, selections made on the basis of their suggestions wouldn’t be free of bias.