The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 18 , 2017

JNU 'forged' letter mystery deepens

New Delhi, July 17: When The Telegraph reported on March 17 that JNU had received a letter announcing an end to University Grants Commission funding for its Dalit studies centre, the higher education regulator had immediately claimed the letter was a "forgery".

It's now come to light that the university had from April stopped the salaries of the two teachers and two other employees recruited to the centre under the commission's scheme and disabled their official email IDs.

But just days after this newspaper sent an email to JNU registrar Pramod Kumar on July 7, asking about what seemed a follow-up action to the "forged" letter, the university decided to release the pending salaries, campus sources have revealed. They added that the email accounts had not been restored.

No response to the email has yet arrived from Kumar, or from commission chairperson V.S. Chauhan or human resource development ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel who too had been sent similar emails.

When this correspondent visited Kumar's office on July 11, he advised a meeting with rector Chintamani Mahapatra, who promised to get back later.

On July 13, Mahapatra sent a message: "Issue of salary resolved. University has not disabled email ID as far as my information is concerned."

A commission official, declining to elaborate on the mystery of the "forged" letter, said the university had "checked with" the regulator and found out that the centre would continue being funded for now.

"So the university can pay salaries to the employees," he said.

PhD and MPhil admissions to the Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion began last Saturday. On March 16, Kumar had told this newspaper that if the centre were closed, its students would be transferred to other centres of the university.

It was on March 10 that the letter, dated March 6 and carrying the purported signature of commission undersecretary Sushma Rathore, had arrived at the registrar's office.

It said that once the 12th Plan period ended on March 31 this year, the commission would no longer fund its scheme for the study of "social exclusion and inclusive policy", under which about 30 universities had opened research centres on the discrimination faced by Dalit and tribal communities.

Apparently, JNU was the only university that received the letter before this newspaper published the report on March 17.

The next day, the commission issued a statement saying: "The letter was faxed from Mumbai number with 022 STD code. UGC does not have an office in Mumbai."

It added: "The quoted letter in the newspapers is a forgery and as per records of UGC has not been issued by Ms Sushma Rathore."

On March 22, the commission lodged a police complaint. Today, assistant commissioner of police Naresh Yadav added another layer of mystery to the matter saying the Mumbai fax number mentioned had been defunct long before the letter was faxed.

He said the number used to belong to a private individual but declined to identify anyone. "We are investigating which number the letter actually came from," Yadav said.

On March 16, then commission chairperson Ved Prakash had told this newspaper: "The letter says only funding under Plan will stop, not non-plan (funding)."

He had then hung up. Since the centre received only Plan funding, having been set up under a Plan scheme, his comment was construed as confirmation of the letter's contents.

This newspaper later filed an RTI application with the human resource development ministry on March 30, seeking copies of its communications with the regulator - between April last year and March this year - about the schemes the commission supported under the 12th Plan.

The ministry circulated the RTI application among its various sections and sent a copy to the commission. Those information officers from the ministry and the commission who have so far replied have all denied having any such documents.

A commission official, however, said the regulator had set up a committee to review which of its 60-odd Plan schemes should continue. A decision, which could affect the careers of hundreds of teachers and students, would be taken after September.

Of the about 30 centres opened under the scheme to study "social exclusion and inclusive policy", some have been regularised by their universities, meaning they don't depend on commission funds any more. But the JNU centre is among nearly 20 that still do.

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