THE COLLEGIUM of eminent personalities constituted by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) for the appointment of its chairperson includes at least 10 dead people, seven of whom died before the collegium was set up.
According to the ICSSR’s memorandum of association and rules, the search-cum-selection committee invites nominations from a collegium of eminent social scientists, and finalises a panel of three names from this pool of nominees for the post of chairman. The three names are then forwarded to the government, and the HRD minister finally appoints the ICSSR head.
On May 2, the HRD ministry appointed Braj Bihari Kumar, 76, editor of quarterly journals Dialogue and Chintan Srijan, as in ICSSR collegium list the ICSSR’s new chairperson for a three-year term. Kumar, who was also selected through this process, succeeds S K Thorat who retired last month.
The 244-member collegium was constituted by the ICSSR under Thorat’s chairmanship, after the memorandum of association was revised in 2014.
Among those in the list are former heads of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) Nihar Ranjan Ray (died in 1981), B R Grover (died in 2001), K S Lal (died in 2002), A R Kulkarni (died in 2009), R S Shama (died in 2011) and Ravinder Kumar (died in 2001). Geographer L S Bhatt, who died in 2013, is also listed as a member of the collegium.
The other dead people in the list are historian Bimal Prasad and former ICSSR head Rajni Kothari (both died in 2015) and former ICSSR chairperson Javeed Alam, who died last year.
The HRD Ministry did not respond to questions emailed by The Sunday Express. When contacted, Thorat declined to comment on the issue.
But ICSSR member-secretary Virendra Kumar Malhotra said: “The collegium was constituted and approved by the (ICSSR) Council in 2014. The term of that Council is long over. We cannot reconstitute the collegium unless the new Council is in place. Moreover, it (presence of dead people) doesn’t affect the selection process as only 10-odd people out of 200 names were dead. We had ample nominations from the remaining members of the collegium.”
When it was pointed out that the collegium included Nihar Ranjan Ray, who died in 1981, he said, “I cannot comment on that since I was only recently appointed as the member-secretary. The search-cum-selection committee was aware of this. But we also knew our limitations — that a new collegium cannot be constituted unless a new Council is in place.”
Sources in the ministry and ICSSR called it a “silly oversight” and attributed the inclusion of dead social scientists to the Council not updating the list regularly.
“This does not vitiate the appointment process by which B B Kumar was selected because the dead did not nominate any candidates. Had any names been projected as their nomination then that would have set off alarm bells. That didn’t happen,” said a source in the HRD ministry.
The collegium, as per the memorandum of association, should comprise national research professors of the HRD ministry in the field of social sciences, ICSSR national fellows, UGC professor emeritus in social sciences, Padma awardees in the field of education from any discipline of social science, former ICSSR chairpersons, current and former chairpersons of UGC, ICHR, ICPR and current vice-chancellors of central universities belonging to social sciences.