Bidyut Chakraborty took over charge as the vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati University Friday, a month after President Ram Nath Kovind cleared his name for the position. Over the past few years, the university was being overseen by a series of acting vice-chancellors (VC) after the last permanent head Sushanta Datta Gupta was sacked by the then HRD minister Smriti Irani.
“We welcome the appointment of the new vice-chancellor. With no permanent VC at the university over the past two and a half years, the functioning had taken a hit. This gap will now be plugged. For instance, an investigation committee was set up to look into the malpractice and corruption charges against our former VC Sushanta Datta Gupta. But in the absence of a permanent head, the probe has not made much headway. This investigation is one of the first responsibilities that the new VC will have to look at,” said executive council member and President’s nominee Sushovan Banerjee.
Without a VC, the financial activities of the institute were also affected and many projects had not taken off, Banerjee said. “The complete functioning of a university is affected in absence of a permanent VC,” he added.
After Datta was sacked by the MHRD, Visva Bharati continued to be in the eye of the storm as former acting VC Sabuj Kali Sen’s tenure was riddled with controversy. Senior members of the executive council (EC), including Banerjee, challenged the extension of Sen as officiating VC and said that the EC resolution sent to the MHRD had been forged.
After Datta Gupta was dismissed from the central university in February 2016, Professor Swapan Kumar Dutta had become the acting V-C. Professor Sabujkali Sen had assumed charge on February 3 after his retirement. Her term expired in February this year and the EC members demanded that she retire immediately after that.
“The new appointment is definitely welcome. The question is, why did it take the MHRD so long to make this appointments. During my tenure, all the key positions at the university were lying vacant, including that of the Registrar, Finance Officer, Director Libraries and a number of other Directors. The functioning of a university is obviously inadequate with these posts lying vacant. This apathy on part of the MHRD has been surprising to say the least. But Professor Chakraborty has good academic credentials, which is a welcome move for the university,” former acting VC Swapan Dutta said.
However, not all are happy with the appointment, with some saying that the move is entirely political and that Professor Chakraborty is a “BJP-man”. “Visva Bharati was an institution set up by Rabindranath Tagore to provide an alternate education system. Nehru during his time had clarified that there should be no government interference regarding the functioning of the university. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee himself was a great proponent of the university maintaining its autonomy and not having political appointments. But Professor Chakraborty is considered close to both the BJP and the RSS,” said a professor not wishing to be named.
Reacting to the charges, Banerjee said, “Every government chooses someone they know as their appointee. This is normal. There is a strict protocol followed in the appointment of the VC and a consensus needs to be reached by the committee making the appointment and this panel includes a representative of the university. Chakraborty has excellent academic credentials. Whether he is close to a particular party or not does not matter as long as he carries out his role properly. His appointment is an exciting prospect for us all.”