The Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan has put under the scanner a journalism university created by former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, with some of his key media advisers in top positions.
The Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication was established in late 2012 by an Act passed by the state assembly following Gehlot’s budget announcement of 2012-13. The first batch of 41 students was enrolled in November 2013 for two courses — electronic media and media studies.
The university is running out of a building in Jagatpura which was meant for a government school but was lying unoccupied. The staff and nine-member faculty sit in Soochna Bhawan, the office of the directorate of information and public relations of the government.
The Gehlot government had promised Rs 12 crore to set up the university, but this year’s revised allocation has cut the sanction to Rs 2.4 crore. A 30-acre plot in Dehmi Kalan on Ajmer Road allotted to the university by the previous regime is yet to be handed over.
A four-member committee comprising cabinet ministers Gulab Chand Kataria, Rajendra Rathore, Arun Chaturvedi and Kalicharan Saraf is in the process of scrutinizing the project. Education Minister Saraf said, “We have formed a committee to review all projects introduced by the Gehlot government in the last six months of its tenure. We will scrutinize their importance and feasibility and thereafter plan the future roadmap. The journalism university too falls in this category, and a decision on its funds or land allocation will be taken only after we have thoroughly reviewed it.”
Former deputy editor of The Hindu, Sunny Sebastian, was appointed vice-chancellor of the university. Narayan Bareth, a senior journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation, and Rajan Mahan, the former state head of NDTV 24×7, were hired as professors. These three appointments had caused a flutter in the local media.
P Sainath and Ananya Banerjee are on the board of management, while Mrinal Pande is on the advisory council, along with the VC’s nominees Siddharth Varadarajan, KS Sachidananda Murthy, Kumar Ketkar, B R Swarup, and Nupur Basu.
Selection committee member Manohar Singh Rathore, a water expert, was replaced before the completion of his year-long tenure by Ram Swarup Agarwal, a retired principal of a law college who is considered close to the RSS.
Minister Saraf said there was no proposal to replace the VC, as “it would be unconstitutional as the stipulated tenure is three years, and the appointment is done by the Governor”.
Professors at the university are in the payscale of approximately Rs 42,000, and the VC approximately Rs 75,000, apart from perks.
Narayan Bareth said, “Most of us have taken a pay cut to enter this profession. These are not highly paying jobs. It is unfortunate if an issue is being made out of the appointments here. We are in dire need of skilled journalists and this university will help produce fine journalists and generate employment.”
Sebastian said the government must help nurture the university. “The government needs to invest in the new university for it to develop well. We need adequate funds and space for a full-fledged campus with laboratories and studios,” he said.