‘Will continue to fight for students & teachers’https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/will-continue-to-fight-for-students-teachers/

‘Will continue to fight for students & teachers’

The suspended MU professor speaks to Dipti Sonawala on how he plans to continue fighting the MU administration.

The suspended MU professor speaks to Dipti Sonawala on how he plans to continue fighting the MU administration.
The suspended MU professor speaks to Dipti Sonawala on how he plans to continue fighting the MU administration.

The suspension of Dr Neeraj Hatekar, professor of econometrics, Mumbai University (MU), Saturday sparked off protests on the MU campus by teachers and students. Hatekar has been taking on the varsity administration on various alleged irregularities and mismanagement.

MU authorities have accused you of ‘violating the code of conduct’, ‘misguiding media’ and ‘moral turpitude’. What do you have to say?
I have not violated the code of conduct and neither have I misguided the media. All the issues we (Joint Action Committee) raised are genuine and even MU authorities had agreed with this in several news reports. I have moved the High Court. We will see who is violating the code of conduct and misguiding the media. As for moral turpitude, I don’t understand what they are talking about. I have never ill-treated or abused my students or even colleagues. I am wondering if they termed fighting for what is right as moral turpitude.

There has been speculation over your suspension. What is the actual reason for it if you disagree with the reasons cited in the order?
My suspension was set up, it was a planned move. Because neither was I warned nor was I served any show-cause notice. The issue was not even on the agenda list of the management council meeting held on December 20. They could have initiated an inquiry against me. Also, I had sent a press note/letter announcing a press conference 48 hours before the conference was held (on December 12). The note was sent not only to the media but also to all officials of MU and teachers, too, by email. In it, I had mentioned major points to be discussed and had given them enough time to respond. But they didn’t. No one objected or even replied to my email.

You have been highlighting issues of alleged mismanagement in Mumbai University for the past three-and-a-half years. You moved court on several occasions. Why did you approach the media?
I wrote to the MU Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, ministers and other authorities several times. However, they did not reply to my complaints. We filed several PILs in the High Court regarding the V-C’s appointment and issues such as appointment of board of studies members. But the matters are still pending. It was time we approached the media. I spoke to the media as the convenor of the organisation (joint action committee) and not as a professor at MU.


Have you refused to meet the minister for higher and technical education on the suspension issue?
Yes, I have refused to meet the minister. If it is about discussing only my suspension in isolation, I am not interested in the meet. If the minister is willing to talk about all the issues raised by us, along with the suspension, in the presence of affected students, teachers and VC, we will agree to meet him.

What is your next course of action?
The joint action committee and I will continue to fight for students and teachers
and work towards eradicating irregularities.

Do you think Mumbai University’s reputation is deteriorating?
Yes, because there is no academic leader. The 150-year-old, prestigious university is run by people who are unqualified and unfit to lead an institute of such repute. It’s a shame as neither the authorities concerned nor the state are doing anything to restore the sanctity of the institute.