A newspaper shelter on the footpath, right outside the main gate of the Kalina campus of Mumbai University and next to a busy traffic signal, turned into a class for students of economics Tuesday.
With close to 40 students, who sat on newspapers on the ground, suspended university professor Neeraj Hatekar conducted a class on game theory as buses, cars and curious onlookers passed by, from 3 pm to 5 pm.
Hatekar was suspended on January 4 by the university on the grounds of violating the code of conduct and for moral turpitude. “His suspension has been unfortunate and we want him back. Till then, we are ready to attend his lectures wherever he conducts them,” said Kinnari Mehta, an MA Part I student.
“He taught us microeconomics, game theory, prisoners’ dilemma, dominant strategy, and backward induction, among others. It was a unique experience for me,” said Parnali Kshirsagar, an MA Part I economics student.
Since his suspension, several students, eminent economists and academicians have backed Hatekar and sought his reinstatement.
While the class on Tuesday was primarily for first year students, a few MA Part II economics students also attended the lecture.
The Bombay Graduates Forum – where the lecture was conducted — is a newspaper reading shelter stretching over 250-300 sq ft. It also has a four-seater and a two-seater.
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Hatekar has alleged that the vice-chancellor (V-C) of Mumbai University was trying to settle personal scores by suspending him as he had filed an affidavit supporting the stand taken by petitioners in a public interest litigation (PIL) against his appointment as V-C. Hatekar has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court which seeks to set aside his suspension.
“The university cannot oppose it because it is outside the campus. We will now formally write to the Bombay Graduates Forum, informing them about my intention to conduct lectures here. This is the first time in the history of the university that a lecture was conducted under the watchful eyes of university security and plainclothes policemen,” said Hatekar.
On Wednesday, Hatekar will conduct a class on non-parametric econometrics for MA Part II students, while on Thursday, students will learn game theory.
Advocate Dharmesh Vyas, chairman of the Bombay Graduates Forum and former senate member of Mumbai University, said, “It is in the interest of students, we have no problem. Hatekar should have been served a showcause notice first, but the university didn’t follow the principle of natural justice in his case.”
University registrar M A Khan said: “Students like Hatekar and we would want him to come back and teach. A copy of the order has been given to the director of the economics department and it was her responsibility to make alternative arrangements for another expert to ensure that students don’t suffer. Also, if Hatekar he is so serious and passionate about teaching his students, he can do that at his residence. Why is he making a show by teaching on the footpath?”
In a related development, two students barged into the venue of inaugural function for an annual festival by MU’s students from the north-east, where Home Minister R R Patil was present, and waved black flags. They were detained by the police and let off later.
VOICES OF SUPPORT
People consider Hatekar as a pioneer of behavioural economics. We are supporting him because we respect him for his contribution in the field of economics. People like Hatekar do not deserve to be penalised in this manner
(Sujoy Chakarvarty – Associate Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi)
We believe a credible independent committee should be set up to probe the matter. Only if the allegations by Hatekar are found to be false, punitive action should be taken against him. Suspending him like this is not correct.
(Parikshit Ghosh – Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi)