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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal interview: ‘Don’t want anarchy in varsities, want conducive environment for academics’

Our ministry is talking to both the teachers and the students. JNU is an important institution and its alumni have made the country proud, says Ramesh Pokhriyal.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: January 16, 2020 9:05:49 am
Ramesh Pokhriyal, Ramesh Pokhriyal on JNU, HRD minister on JNU violece, HRD on JNU protests, JNU violence, HRD Ramesh Pokriyal on JNU attack, JNU fee hike, HRD on JNU fee hike “There is no question of trust deficit between the University head and the students,” said HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal speaks to The Indian Express on the JNU fee hike, the demand for the V-C’s removal and his ministry’s efforts to find a solution

JNU students’ union and teachers’ association are demanding the Vice-Chancellor’s removal. Will that happen?

Our ministry is talking to both the teachers and the students. JNU is an important institution and its alumni have made the country proud. We want the environment in JNU to become conducive for academic activities (again). Discipline should also be maintained.

But their demand is clear — V-C’s removal..

Let’s first talk to them. Let’s find out why are they saying this. My ministry is continuously in touch with them since the day of the convocation. We even set up a three-member committee to ensure dialogue between the administration and students.

How do you expect to move forward when there is a trust deficit between the university head and students?

I don’t think so. There is no question of trust deficit. Let’s look at where it began. UGC told the university that it will discontinue grants for a few things and that university, as an autonomous institution, should make arrangements. I presume that when the JNU administration met, they would have decided to start charging service and utility charges from the students. Naturally, the students would have felt this is a lot. Even we agreed the hike is steep. I told students (on the day of the convocation) that we will talk to the administration. The three-member committee tried to find a way out. We even involved UGC and asked them to help the university with funds. That was the main issue.

Read | Will not tolerate any violence, anarchy inside JNU campus: HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank

Please remember that the tuition fee has not been increased and it hasn’t happened in a long time. During the discussion with students and (higher education) secretary, it was agreed (even by student representatives) that the room rent can be increased from Rs 10 to Rs 300. This is nothing in a city like Delhi. Students should have withdrawn (their agitation) at that time. If there was still an issue, both sides should have tried to restart the dialogue. Students who wanted to register for the new semester should not have been stopped. To occupy the server room and damage it on January 3 was wrong. On January 4, we are told by the university administration, that (the server) was fixed and the registration process started again. But this was stopped again on January 5. Almost 5,000 students have registered. This means that there are students who want to continue studying and some are trying to stop them. Why do you want to stop them? The dialogue can continue even as registration continues. We will find a solution only when we talk. If one side tries to dig its heels in, there can be no solution. The students are here to study and the university’s job is to facilitate them. However, if there are any misunderstandings between the university and the students even now, we will try to address that.

JNU VC Jagadesh Kumar interview: If your protest is genuine, why would you hide your face

Prakash Javadekar on JNU, JNU violence, delhi police on JNU, JNU president aishe ghosh behind attack, Smriti Irani, How politicians reacted on JNU, ABVP, BJP, Indian express Delhi Police outside the JNU campus. (Express photo/file)

Under similar circumstances in the past, the HRD Ministry sent V-Cs of BHU, Hyderbad Central University and Manipur University on leave. Can the ministry consider the same for the JNU V-C?

Is sending (him) on leave a solution? I don’t think so. We can find a solution even today. I am looking out for the interest of students, the university and academics. Whoever is working to harm these interests is not in my good books. We are willing to work with whoever is capable of making the university conducive for academics again. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the institution pursues the path of excellence and improves its global rankings. This year, JNU students bagged 18 out of the 32 IES (Indian Economic Services) seats. Those who want to study are passionate about it. If you go off track, then it isn’t very easy to bring them back. So our effort is that the university’s environment is conducive. For this, we expect the V-C, teachers and even students to contribute.

The V-C of Jamia Millia Islamia kept speaking to her students and even visited those injured. Shouldn’t the JNU V-C have shown the same sensitvity?

The dialogue should continue.

But shouldn’t he have met them?

Anyone can make a mistake. Dialogue should continue…When there is dialogue, a solution can be found to many problems.

READ | JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh: ‘Not scared of Delhi police, have evidence of how I was attacked’

Well-known economist Amit Bhaduri gave up his emeritus professorship over “throttling of dissent” in JNU. Does that not hurt JNU’s global image?

People can have their opinions. We are clear. We don’t want anarchy in our universities. We want all universities to have a conducive environment for academics. We want our institutions to compete for global rankings, without getting distracted.

Last week, you said the government will never let universities become ‘adda’ (den) for politics. Why say that when many BJP leaders are a product of student politics?

When I said that, I was referring to efforts to use universities for cheap politics. Student politics is meant for protecting student interests and improving academic environment of an educational institution. But what is happening now? Is that in the interest of students? So many political parties went there… the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is not unconstitutional. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed it. No one’s citizenship is being revoked…What I said was a reference to the politics being done over this and that this will not be tolerated. No one wants anarchy, indiscipline and violence in our universities, which is why I am still saying that we will not tolerate our universities to be used for such kind of politics. We want our country to become a vishwaguru again.

jagadeesh kumar, JNU violence JNU fee hike protest, JNU CAA protest, jnu attack, JNU vice chancellor interview, jnu news, indian express JNU students at a meeting with the HRD Secretary Amit Khare.

Read | JNU V-C to HRD: University implementing fee-related decisions ‘in totality’

But there is strong student support for the anti-CAA agitation …

Where is this happening? Some people are trying their best to create this environment (of opposition and protest). In that process, they are ruining our universities. It’s also possible that the students are misguided. Amendment of the Citizenship Act is not new. It has been amended many times, during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In different circumstances and at different times, this Act has been amended. This means that you (protesters) haven’t understood it completely. And if you continue to oppose despite understanding it, that is unfortunate. Which is why I am saying that serious students are focused on studying and they should not be disturbed.

Jamia V-C has demanded an inquiry by the ministry into police entering the campus on December 15 without permission…

The Jamia V-C informed us that the police entered the campus while chasing people who were indulging in violence outside….The police did not enter the campus looking for students, but those who were indulging in violence outside. This is a matter of investigation, and I am sure the police is looking into it.

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