THERE WAS high drama at the Panjab University Senate meeting here on Thursday when Vice-Chancellor Raj Kumar refused to give an extension to the three deans of student welfare (DSW). All hell broke loose as Senators accused the V-C of breaking the varsity rules. They claimed that it would lead to an unprecedented situation of the PU student council elections being held without any DSW. As tempers rose, many members openly accused the V-C of being partisan, and trying to induct his own men on prime posts.
While the Senators were protesting inside the meeting, NSUI members raised slogans against fee hike outside the administrative block. As news about the DSWs spread, students from all parties other than the ABVP gheraoed the residence of the V-C.
The meeting was going smoothly and two items on the agenda had been passed when the matter for one-year extension to DSW Emmanual Nahar, DSW (women) Neena Caplash and Associate DSW Prof Ranjan Kumar came up for discussion. It was proposed that three be given extension in their term of appointment up to May 31, 2020, or till recommendation of the Syndicate is considered by the Senate.
An official statement released by the university read, “Since there was no consensus, the agenda item for extension of term of appointment of incumbent DSW (Men), DSW (Women) and Associate DSW (on leave) not approved in the meeting of the senate. Till the regular appointment of DSW (Men), DSW (Women) and Associate DSW (on leave), the Vice-Chancellor shall make necessary arrangement to look after the functions of the offices of DSW (Men), DSW (Women) and Associate DSW (on leave).”
The V-C expressed his strong reservation on the matter, saying that he had not recommended the names for these three posts. He said he will propose the names of his choice at the next meeting.
The Senators argued that DSW is the returning officer during elections and is charged with ensuring efficient polling. Putting off any decision on this matter would be tantamount to holding elections without a DSW, they argued.
The V-C, however, refused to allow voting on the matter, following which 48 fellows out of the 74 present gave in writing that they were in favour of extension to the three incumbent DSWs.
MP Kirron Kher, who left the meeting early, put on record before leaving that in her view the DSWs should not be given an extension.
Former MP Pawan Bansal decried the decision and said it was a dark day for democracy on the campus. Later, he tweeted, “Punjab Varsity Senate meeting today reflects shameless fall to abyss of profanity in edu, institutions, VC, unable to grasp laws governing @OfficialPU but loyal to His Masters, butchered democracy & contemptuously declined vote sought by preponderant majority only to shoot & scoot (sic).’’
National Anthem ‘insulted’
As the House reassembled after lunch, the V-C wanted to move to the next point on the agenda but the Senators did not allow that. This led to a huge hue and cry in the meeting. The Senators started raising slogans against the V-C. When things got out of hand, the V-C sought to bring the meeting to an end by asking for the National Anthem to be played. This was greeted by loud protests, with some calling it a clear disrespect to the anthem.
But despite the objections, the National Anthem was played, and even interrupted by some angry Senators, who later called a press conference on this “use of the anthem as a tool’’.
Addressing the press conference, Senator Ashok Goyal said, “He tried to play the National Anthem to cover up his deeds. We thought that since the media is present, he won’t stoop to this level, but we were wrong. What has happened today is a clear indication that V-C does not even care about the media.”
Calling it the darkest day of the Senate, Goyal said, “We don’t know when the next meeting will be. It’s all arbitrary now.’’
The Senators also objected to the meeting being called on a working day instead of Sunday.
The five newly appointed members also came in for flak with the Senators saying that they were appointed without a notification. They also underlined the absence of one of them, Prof Raj Kumar Bhatia, at the very first meeting.
Students gherao V-C residence
Loud slogans rent the air as students from all parties except for the ABVP gathered outside the V-C’s residence to protest against the “threat to democracy on the campus’’.
Addressing the protesters raising slogans in Punjabi, student council president Kanu Priya said democracy on the campus is in danger. She claimed that the administration will use tools such as expulsion to muffle dissent.
Others in the crowd, where someone had hurriedly got a public address system for Kanu Priya while others used their cell phone lights, seemed quite disturbed by the turn of events. Sachin Galav, NSUI campus president, said, “The polls will be completely biased. This move shows that they want to help ABVP win. All the parties except ABVP are now together.’’
Parvinder Katora, ABVP campus general secretary, said, “I am sure a new DSW will be appointed soon or someone will be given additional charge of DSW since the student elections are almost here. DSW is a very important person for the students. This post can’t be kept vacant for long.”