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JNU teachers say VC should go

M. Jagadesh Kumar had “not shown any respect for democratic process” during his tenure
Jawaharlal Nehru University

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 21.11.19, 08:56 PM

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association on Thursday called for vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar’s resignation, saying he had “not shown any respect for democratic process” during his tenure.

JNUTA president D.K. Lobiyal said representatives of the association had submitted a memorandum that virtually sought Kumar’s resignation when they met a three-member panel the HRD ministry has set up to resolve a row over a hostel fee hike.

The “possibility of addressing the recurrent problems arising from the way JNU is being governed is impossible while the current Vice Chancellor continues in office”, says the memorandum the JNUTA submitted at the meeting at the ministry’s Shastri Bhavan office.

Lobiyal later told The Telegraph: “We said the fee hike needs to be rolled back and the institutional mechanism in place for framing any new rule has to be respected. We also said that until this VC is there, it is probably impossible that the process will be followed as he has not been following the established norms of functioning and has not shown any respect for democratic process during his tenure.”

“The current fee-increase impasse has been created by the current administration to legitimise their wasteful expenditure and financial mismanagement.… The VC must resign,” Lobiyal added.

On Wednesday, the HRD ministry panel had met representatives of the varsity’s student union, in what was the JNUSU’s first official recognition. Kumar’s administration is yet to recognise the JNUSU.

A section of teachers, including deans and wardens appointed by Kumar, issued a statement disassociating themselves from the JNUTA for its “indifference” to the gheraos of several wardens and an acting dean.

They also said the ministry’s move to set up the panel amounted to an “interference in the matters of an autonomous university”.

On Friday, the ministry panel is scheduled to visit the varsity’s administrative block — that was defaced during protests — for talks with the administration, students and teachers.

The agitation against the fee hike — that has put hostels out of reach of two out of five boarders — has seen several instances of picketing, including the one at last week’s convocation that left HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal stranded.

Although Pokhriyal has met the protesting students, vice-chancellor Kumar has refused to meet the JNUSU. Students have been asked to return to class or face expulsion.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street on Thursday to demand a rollback of the fee hike.

The group, the main opposition to the Left-led JNUSU, has called the central panel “unethical”, saying it involves breaching the autonomy of the varsity.

Lalit Pandey, central universities convener of the ABVP, told this newspaper: “The committee was simply made to delay the process. It is a compromise by the JNUSU, which has trapped the Left. The HRD ministry should give funds and roll back the hike.”

Unlike the JNUSU march on Monday that witnessed a police crackdown that left several students, a teacher and a journalist injured, police allowed students to climb over barricades on Thursday.

JNU rector S.C. Garkoti said in a statement the varsity has a deficit of Rs 45 crore due to power and water charges and wages of 450 contractual staff which the University Grants Commission does not fund.

“As per preliminary estimates the revised hostel charges, including three meals, for each general student is approximately Rs 4,500 per month. Out of this, Rs 2,300 is for food. Of the remaining amount of Rs 2,200, BPL (below poverty line)-category students have to pay only 50 per cent.”

JNU is yet to define the income criteria for BPL, an outdated categorisation that is currently not defined.

Garkoti said most boarders receive scholarships.

The merit-cum-means scholarship that students receive is less than half the projected hostel bill.

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