When the controversy over the UGC’s order to roll back Delhi University’s controversial Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) was at its peak last week, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry had shot off a letter to the UGC chairman, raising queries on his trip to Mauritius in January this year.
Sources confirmed that the Smriti Irani-led HRD ministry last week sent a communication to the UGC, seeking details of its Chairman Prof Ved Prakash’s trip to Mauritius in January 2014 to sign a MoU. The ministry sought to know if ministerial approval had been taken for the trip. While the UGC chairman responded to the ministry’s communication, stating that due permissions were taken, it is learnt that the issue is being examined by the vigilance department of the HRD Ministry.
With protests by BJP’s student wing ABVP against FYUP getting shriller, the UGC may have directed the FYUP rollback last month but it is learnt there was some discomfort within UGC and the Commission members as well over the decision to ask DU to withdraw the FYUP. Incidentally, UGC with Prof Ved Prak-ash at the helm had supported FYUP in 2013 when the UPA was in power arguing that as per the Kothari Commission report duration of an academic programme may vary.
The UGC directive to DU on the FYUP rollback also came after the HRD Ministry directed the apex higher education regulator on June 20 — under Section 20(1) of the UGC Act — to ensure that all varsities including DU adhere to the National Policy of Education that mandates a 10+2+3 format.
The move raising questions about the UGC chairman’s Mauritius visit has come months after the trip was made.
The UGC chairman, it is learnt, responded to the HRD Ministry’s communication on his Mauritius trip on Monday sending details of the trip along with documents that indicate approval had been taken from the then HRD Minister Pallam Raju. He is said to have gone to Mauritius to renew an ongoing 1992 MoU with the Tertiary Education Commission of Mauritius that requires renewal every three years.
However, sources in the HRD Ministry said as per their records there is no ministerial approval for the UGC chairman’s trip in January 2014. It is learnt that the issue is now being examined by the HRD Ministry’s vigilance department for any discrepancies. Discrepancies on the matter will be read as violation of code of conduct rules. While the UGC is an autonomous body under the HRD Ministry, rules that apply to government servants also apply to the UGC chairman and vice-chairman.