An annual memorial lecture organised by the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP) at JNU has run into controversy after Dean of the School of Social Sciences (SSS) changed the speaker, allegedly “without the involvement and sanction” of the Centre, sources said.
The CESP faculty had decided to invite former JNU faculty member Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who is at present the Ashoka University Vice-Chancellor and President of the Centre for Policy Research, for the 26th Krishna Bharadwaj Memorial Lecture — named after the founder of CESP. A letter in this regard was sent by the CESP chairperson to the Dean of the SSS, Pradipta K Chaudhury, in January this year, sources said.
However, sources said that the Dean “bypassed” the Centre’s decision and instead invited Shiv Choudhary, head of the department of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at AIIMS, to deliver the lecture on ‘Conquering the Invincible: A journey of courage’ on March 8.
The CESP faculty, in a meeting on March 5, has now decided to go ahead with the decision to invite Mehta for a lecture in March-end.
Advocate and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, daughter of Krishna Bharadwaj, who was extended an invitation on February 26 for Choudhary’s lecture, has pulled out of the event.
In an email to the Dean on March 3, she said, “Prof Krishna Bharadwaj was not only an eminent scholar but also a thorough democrat. It is unlikely that she could have approved of an administrative decision that was carried out without consultation with the institution that she spent decades of her life nurturing. Even during the Emergency, the CESP stood out for its bold stands in favour of its autonomy and the welfare of its faculty and students. I regret that it will not be possible for me to attend the lecture.”
Bharadwaj confirmed this to The Indian Express: “I thought it was not proper to organise the lecture by bypassing CESP so I have expressed that I will not be in a position to go.”
A CESP faculty member said, “The Dean has chosen to bypass the Centre and has decided on a lecture with a different speaker, which has been announced as the Krishna Bharadwaj Memorial Lecture… It has always been organised by the CESP, but successive Deans have been associated with it. The invitations go in their names, but it is always organised by the Centre. After we gave Mehta’s name in January, there was no further discussion on any more names till we saw the event details on the website,” the faculty member said.
Asked if he had received an invitation for the programme, Mehta said, “You should ask those who organise the event; it is only appropriate for them to answer.” The Dean and CESP chairperson Sugato Dasgupta did not respond to calls and texts by The Indian Express.