The Panjab University’s Teachers Association elections, which were set to be held on Friday, were postponed by the returning officer only a day prior to polling. The action was reportedly been taken after the UT administration showed a lack of support towards the elections.
“PUTA is an independent body with its own constitution which conducts elections in accordance with its constitution without any outside interference… In order to avoid any undesirable eventuality, I decided to approach the Deputy Commissioner UT Chandigarh, for his sanction to hold PUTA elections on September 25-26. However, the response to my above request is still awaited,” stated Vijay Nagpal, returning officer for the elections, in a letter.
Professor Nagpal, talking to The Indian Express, said that he had remained pursuant to the administration regarding the request, but “receiving no response from the administration till 11 am Thursday, I had no option but to postpone the elections. We cannot pursue them sans a formal permission,” he said.
As per the letter, a representation submitted by at least six professors of the university to the registrar, which was forwarded to Nagpal, is also one of the reasons for postponing the elections. “New dates will be announced after necessary permissions are received from the deputy commissioner of UT,” the letter read.
The Sidhu-Khalid group, contender to the standing PUTA’s Mritunjay- Naura group, expressed shock over the postponement of elections, in a press statement. “We had undertaken systematic campaign and exposed the inaction of PUTA leadership in the last three years. Community at large had agreed to our viewpoint which was seen in the form of backlash to vote out incumbent group which has been working through as agents of few senate members… defeat of group opposed to us was imminent.”
Levelling further allegations on standing PUTA secretary and returning officer, it read, “The secretary PUTA was the only person interacting with returning officer and might have been conversant with the internal situation… however, it was a bolt in the blue for us. Secretary PUTA is responsible for keeping us in the dark.”
The group has demanded that all communications between PUTA secretary and RO be made public.
In another letter, the group has denied PUTA current authority stating that “once an election is set in motion, nominations are invited… PUTA executive is no more in place, it stands dissolved. Only position that remains is that of secretary till results are announced.”
As per the Sidhu-Khalid group, they received a letter on behalf of PUTA with political content on PUTA’s letter pad, and stated that PUTA, as it now stands dissolved, has no authority to use the letter pad. “Any message on PUTA letterpad with political overtones is illegal,” they said.
The Mritunjay-Naura group, in a statement, said, “With just one day left, PUTA elections have been postponed. By now, we all know the forces which have been working day and night to ensure that elections are not held.”
Blaming the administration, it further added, “Authorities seek to run an administration in which voice of teachers can be conveniently ignored and suppressed. Teachers of university need to wake up against the systemic demolition of democratic spaces… The fight is now clear between those who enjoy the patronage of authorities and those who have teachers on their side.”
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