Gopinath Ravindran, Member Secy, Indian Council of Historical Research, last week became the fourth official of a major academic/research institution to resign. Ravindran has blamed the ICHR chief and the ‘saffron’ agenda of Council members; two others have blamed the HRD Ministry.
One official has given no reason for his decision. Report:
Member Secretary, ICHR
Quit June 2015
He was appointed during the term of the UPA in 2013, and resigned amid a growing perception that he had differences with ICHR Chairperson Y Sudershan Rao, and concerns over the “direction” the Council was taking. Soon after being appointed to the top post at ICHR, Rao had blogged in praise of the ancient Indian caste system, triggering a controversy.
At the ICHR Foundation Day lecture in March, Ravindran was heckled by some members of the audience after he disagreed with views expressed by Indologist and Veda specialist David Frawley. Subsequently, Ravindran opposed the Council’s decision to disband the editorial board and advisory committee of its prestigious journal, Indian Historical Review, of which historians of the eminence of Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Satish Chandra, Richard Eaton and B R Tomlinson were members.
STATUS: Ravindran has blamed differences with Rao, and the alleged saffron leanings of the majority at ICHR. There is no word yet on his successor.
MINISTRY’S VERSION: The HRD Ministry has not reacted to the resignation yet.
Parvin Sinclair, Director, NCERT
Quit October 2014
This was the first high-profile resignation on HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s watch. Sinclair, who had been appointed in 2012 for a five-year term, resigned after the government accused her of procedural lapses in the purchase of paper and pulp for textbooks and said an inquiry would be instituted. In December 2014, Sinclair told The Indian Express that “there was undue pressure on NCERT to not do what it is supposed to do”, that the Ministry “wanted to call the shots”, and that she was “not allowed to do what was important and due”.
STATUS: A search-cum-selection committee to pick a new director of NCERT has been set up. The post is yet to be filled.
MINISTRY’S VERSION: It has officially maintained that there was no pressure on Sinclair whatsoever.
Raghunath K Shevgaonkar, Director, IIT-Delhi
Quit December 2014
Resigned with two years to go in his term, and stirred a controversy that lasted months. Some reports suggested he quit after being pressured to release salary dues of nearly Rs 70 lakh to former IIT-D faculty member and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for the period 1972-91, but the HRD Ministry denied forwarding any such request. IIT-D has maintained Swamy has not provided information on his earnings during that period — a requirement for dues to be cleared.
According to officials, Shevgaonkar quit after being told to explain an MoU IIT-D signed with Mauritius Research Council to set up an International Institute of Technology Research Academy in Mauritius, allegedly in violation of the IIT Act. IIT-D has maintained it has done no wrong.
STATUS: Shevgaonkar was finally relieved on June 11. He has not given any reason for resigning. His successor is yet to be appointed.
MINISTRY’S VERSION: “MHRD has neither forwarded Mr Swamy’s request to IIT-Delhi nor given any direction to make payment of arrears… Views of DoPT and Finance Ministry have been sought.”
Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT-Bombay
Quit March 2015
Resigned after a “disagreement” with the Ministry over choosing an IIT director. He was a member of the selection panel and chairman of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council. Irani requested him to withdraw the resignation. His term ended in May.
The selection committee could not reach a consensus on the director for IIT-Ropar, and the process was cancelled. All 37 candidates in the original shortlist were then called for fresh interviews on March 22. Kakodkar later told Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk the Talk that the Ministry had adopted “too casual a process for such an important activity”, and that trying to pick three IIT directors from so many candidates in six or seven hours was like “running a lottery”.
STATUS: Kakodkar’s successor has not been appointed.
MINISTRY’S VERSION: At Express Adda in April, Irani said: “I had videographic evidence that Kakodkar had done group conversations with all the IIT nominees who were to be selected for the next round. Can you imagine that a Cabinet Minister… had to carry videographic evidence to prove that there was a wrong report printed?”