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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Kerala: LDF government plans bill to clip Guv powers on VC

Governor has a big say in appointments of vice-chancellors to state universities

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 23.08.22, 02:14 AM
Arif Mohammed Khan.

Arif Mohammed Khan. PTI picture

Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government is set to table a bill that curtails the governor’s role in appointing vice-chancellors, at a time it is locked in a tussle with governor Arif Mohammed Khan over administrative as well as political issues.

Currently, the governor has a big say in the appointments of vice-chancellors to state universities, since the three-member search-cum-selection committee has two central government representatives including himself.

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Sources said the bill, to be introduced on Wednesday, proposes to raise the number of panel members to five, giving the state government a decisive say.

The three current members are the governor, a University Grants Commission nominee and the state university’s own nominee. The two proposed new members are a state government nominee and the vice-chairman of the Kerala State Higher Education Council.

In June, the Bengal government too had moved to end the governor’s influence on campus matters, passing a bill to replace the governor with the chief minister as the chancellor of state universities. The ruling Congress in Rajasthan has been considering a similar step.

The Kerala government’s move comes amid a standoff with Khan, who has alleged nepotism in key appointments to state universities and threatened to order an investigation into all appointments.

Khan recently froze Kannur University’s decision to appoint Priya Varghese, wife of the chief minister’s secretary K.K. Ragesh, as associate professor in the Malayalam department alleging irregularities in her selection over the other candidates.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan of the Congress has said the Opposition is against the bill.

“The government is trying to appoint ‘yes men’ as vice-chancellors and destroy the quality of higher education,” Satheesan told reporters on Monday.

The tussle between the Raj Bhavan and the state government had escalated on Sunday when Khan described Kannur University vice-chancellor Gopinath Ravindran as a “criminal”.

The governor accused Ravindran of engineering a protest during his address at the 80th Indian History Congress at the university in December 2019, just a few months after he had taken over as governor.

Eminent historians including Irfan Habib had risen in protest when Khan, in his inaugural address, alluded to the harassment of Hindus in Pakistan.

The majority among the 1,500 delegates had immediately stood up and raised anti-CAA placards, which they had quickly made using sheets of white paper, citing the harassment of minorities in India.

Khan on Sunday alleged that the vice-chancellor had not even filed a police complaint. “He is a criminal. He was party to the conspiracy to hurt me physically,” he told reporters.

He accused the vice-chancellor of allowing additional time to Habib and others to speak at the history congress and criticise central government policies.

“It was supposed to be 60 minutes. But the VC allowed historian Irfan Habib and others to make speeches for over one-and-a-half hours criticising (the citizenship matrix and crackdown on dissent) severely, addressing every question to me,” he said.

“When I stood up to answer the questions, within five minutes, a physical attack attempt was made against me. The shirt of my ADC, Manoj Yadav, was torn and twice they made attempts on me. It was only because of the security that they could not reach me.”

LDF convener E.P. Jayarajan has in a statement condemned the remarks, saying: “The governor has converted the Raj Bhavan into a centre for conspiracy. He should rethink whether such substandard comments are suitable for the constitutional head of the state. A governor should not stoop to the level of an ordinary RSS worker.”

The CPM state secretariat urged the governor to explain what crime the vice-chancellor had committed to deserve being called a criminal.

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