Scholar gripe fuels Shimla institute probe

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By MANJEET SEHGAL WARRIOR
  • Published 27.10.04
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Shimla, Oct. 27: Human resource development minister Arjun Singh?s probe into the alleged ?academic, financial and administrative irregularities? at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies here followed complaints from scholars against its ?saffronisation? by the National Democratic Alliance.

Prem Singh was one of the scholars who complained. He wrote to Arjun Singh on June 3 against institute chairperson G.C. Pandey. ?Fellowships are being awarded mostly to retired persons and that, too, from his (Pandey?s) native place Allahabad,? the letter said. It accused Pandey of violating norms in appointing an IPS officer as secretary of the institute, set up in 1964 at the Viceregal Lodge here.

The complaint raised questions about seminars held in the past three years. Some topics were: Vedas as Knowledge, Akhil Bhartiya Vedic Sammelan, Indian Identity and Cultural Continuity, Shri Mathuradas Shastri ka Sanskrit Vangmay, Panditraj Shri Rajeshwar Shastri Dravid ka Darshnik Avdhan.

?Most of the projects and seminars have aimed at obscurantisation and trivialisation of research and scholarships,? Prem Singh said, adding that RSS leaders were invited to deliver lectures. Vishnukant Shastri, Murli Manohar Joshi and T.. Chaturvedi spoke at the institute.

Shastri, then governor of Uttar Pradesh, delivered the annual Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture in June 2003. ?He did not have the fresh text of the lecture with him. The text circulated had been delivered by Shastri in a Sahitya Akademi seminar in Benaras,? said Prem Singh.

Eyebrows were raised when Shastri had lunch at the historic round table at which Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah had discussed Partition.

Bhuvan Chandel, the institute director, said: ?Shastri is a well-known scholar who has taught at Calcutta University for 30 years. He is an authority on Kabir.?

The institute attracts a large number of scholars from India and abroad, who come for three-month to three-year terms. The scholarship amount ranges between Rs 10,000 and Rs 24,000, besides rent-free accommodation.

At present, the accommodation is enough for only 30 scholars. But 32 more were appointed in June. Fourteen of these have joined already, taking the strength to 44, the highest in a decade.

?IIAS is a premier institute and the present strength is not adequate to give representation to all states and all subjects. Secondly, we?re surrendering unspent funds to the government. Rs 30 lakh was returned last year. We want to make IIAS an institution of academic excellence, so we have decided to increase the number of fellows,? says Chandel.

Arjun Singh on October 12 ordered an inquiry by D. Bandopadhyay, a former secretary at the Centre. He will probe the sanction of fellowships in the last three years, particularly the jump in their number, and the seminars organised or subsidised.

The minister is under pressure from the Left to remove all Joshi appointees. Pandey not only belongs to Joshi?s school of thought but also his hometown Allahabad.

In Bhopal, Pandey dismissed all charges. ?The topics of seminars, selection of scholars and appointments were not finalised by me alone? Whenever a new central government takes over, the politicians try to disturb autonomous bodies like IIAS which is unconstitutional.?