HRD MINISTER Smriti Irani has ignored Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya’s recommendation for the post of chairman at the National Council of Rural Institutes (NCRI) and selected Dr Prasannakumar G.
Dattatreya’s candidate K Sudhakar had made the shortlist of three.
After interviewing 11 candidates on February 9, the search-cum-selection committee headed by former bureaucrat M K Kaw submitted the names of Sudhakar, Prasannakumar and I Lokananda Reddy without citing any preference and leaving it for Irani to decide among the three.
Sources said Irani opted for Prasannakumar as he was most unconnected to the Hyderabad-based NCRI and Sudhakar’s selection would have been seen as political interference in academic institutions and academic matters.
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In his letter on January 13, Dattatreya had requested Irani to “consider” Sudhakar’s candidature for the chairman’s post. He did not state any reason for recommending Sudhakar who served as NCRI member-secretary in 2014.
NCRI got dragged into the Rohith Vemula episode after University of Hyderabad (UoH) Vice-Chancellor Podile Appa Rao, who held its additional charge, was relieved of his additional duty by HRD on February 4.
The top post at NCRI is often given to the UoH Vice-Chancellor and Rao, who was holding the NCRI post after Dr P Durgaprasad ended his tenure on January 6, went on an indefinite leave on January 24 following Vemula’s suicide a week earlier.
The opposition blamed Dattatreya for the suicide as he had, through a letter to Irani, urged her to take action against Dalit students in UoH. Later, a case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act was registered against Dattatreya and Rao.
HRD was under court order to appoint a new NCRI chairman by June 2014 but it dragged its feet giving ad hoc appointments. The NCRI is an autonomous institution under the central HRD Ministry and works on building the capacity of different formal and informal rural institutes.