Days after the West Bengal Cabinet decided to introduce a Bill in the state Assembly to appoint Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the chancellor of all state-run universities, the government is now contemplating removing Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar from the post of Visitor in private universities.
Sources in the state education department said the government is considering appointing Education Minister Bratya Basu to the post. According to a senior education department official, “The state Cabinet has in-principal approved the initiative. The proposal will now be placed for clearance in the next Cabinet meeting. The government is, meanwhile, also exploring legal aspects before making a move in this regard.”
On Thursday, the state Cabinet had approved a proposal to introduce a Bill to make the Chief Minister the chancellor of all state-run universities. Basu had then told the media that the Bill would be introduced in the next Assembly session.
The move has raised fears that it would set the stage for another confrontation between the TMC-led government and the Governor, who has repeatedly clashed with the government since he assumed charge in 2019.
The chancellor is the titular head of a state university. In almost all states, the Governor serves as ex-officio chancellor, and in this capacity appoints vice-chancellors of state universities and presides over convocation ceremonies, among other responsibilities.
Under the existing rule, the Governor, as Visitor of private universities, can preside over the convocation of the university. The Visitor also has the power to call for any information relating to the affairs of the university.
Opposition parties have, meanwhile, criticised the state government for its latest move.
Dubbing the initiative “unfortunate”, senior CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty called it an “attack on the education system”. “The state government now wants to continue its extortion bid in private universities as well,” he said.
BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said, “Instead of controlling the universities, the state government should have monitored the progress of these institutions. There should not be an attempt to curb the autonomy of these institutions.”
Slamming the Opposition, TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “If Prime Minister Narendra Modi can be the Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University, then Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could also become the Chancellor of state-run universities. The state government has taken a practical decision in the students’ interest.”
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