The HRD Ministry has set the ball rolling for the appointment of the next vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), even as the government on Wednesday sounded out the incumbent head, G C Tripathi, on the option of “going on leave”.
In what rules out an extension for Tripathi, the ministry has moved a file to constitute the search and election committee for finding his successor. According to the BHU Act, the incumbent V-C will continue in the post unless a new one is appointed. The ministry, sources said, is keen to avoid such a situation and is aiming to identify a successor before Tripathi’s retirement.
Tripathi has been at the centre of a firestorm over his alleged mishandling of protests by women students over an incident of alleged sexual harassment on campus and several cases of alleged institutional bias against women.
“A file with six names will be sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan in the next few days, from which the President will appoint three nominees to the search and selection committee. The V-C’s post will also be advertised soon,” said a ministry source.
With the current V-C having less than two months left in his term, The Indian Express has learnt that senior functionaries in the government, briefed about the current controversy surrounding Tripathi, feel that that the best course of action for him would be to proceed on leave to ensure that the situation is defused at the earliest. Tripathi’s three-year term expires on November 27.
“Well, the remarks about him are not laudatory in the reports received by us. The question is whether he agrees to go on leave before that (November 27) or not. This is a call for him to take,” a top government functionary in Delhi told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity, suggesting that BHU V-C should take the first step to calm rising tempers on the university campus.
Tripathi did not respond to calls and an SMS left by this reporter on Wednesday.
The government had adopted a similar approach at the time of the students’ protests over Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide at Hyderabad Central University. University head P Appa Rao had gone on leave, on the informal advice of the government, and resumed charge once campus life was normal again.
As per the BHU Act, if the V-C goes on leave, the Rector will act as the head and, in the Rector’s absence, the university Registrar will assume charge as V-C.
BHU witnessed a strong student agitation this week as students, most of them women, gathered outside the V-C’s residence to protest an alleged incident of sexual harassment on campus. Several women students were injured when the police allegedly used force to remove them. This, coincidentally, happened at the time the Prime Minister was in Varanasi for a visit to his Lok Sabha constituency.
The university Proctor had resigned late Tuesday night taking “moral responsibility” for the violence on campus from September 21 to 23.