PUNJAB Agricultural University (PAU) has asked 75 of its students to withdraw from a “socio-economic” survey of a Mohali-based firm, VSKM, after it found the questionnaire had political questions related to Punjab elections 2017 and on Dalits and backward classes.
While an official communication, dated August 5, sent from the office of Director Students’ Welfare (a copy is with The Indian Express) was addressed to various departments, stating that students can participate in this survey, the university’s placement cell called up these 75 students and asked them to withdraw.
The communication from DWS had specified that students can give their names to head of departments and varsity’s placement cell “will make liaisons with the company and departments concerned”.
Those students who did not agree to withdraw were informed that “they can continue voluntarily but PAU is no more responsible for it’. The company is also paying a stipend of Rs 9,500 to each student.
When The Indian Express contacted the firm representative, Sudhir, who is heading the survey in Punjab, he said, “Currently, we do not know the status of PAU students working with us. Some are working, others went back. We do not have the exact numbers.”
Asked about political questions being asked in a “socio-economic survey”, he said, “It is the internal matter of our company and we cannot share any details.”
Sources from the university placement cell of PAU confirmed to The Indian Express that “Vice-Chancellor Dr B S Dhillon expressed objections over questions related to Punjab polls 2017 and ordered the placement cell to withdraw students immediately”.
The survey started August 23 and will continue till August 28. It required students to visit different villages in districts, including Faridkot, Jalandhar, Nawanshahr and Moga.
Most students, from various departments including business studies, sociology, economics, agri-journalism and languages etc, had already moved to their assigned districts when then were asked to return.
A source from placement cell said, “The company has told us that it was a socio-political survey but it had political questions too. The V-C objected to it and called all 75 students individually and told them that they should come back. Some students agreed, rest wanted to continue.” The students were provided with tablets by the company and were also made to sign a ‘consent’ form while registration.
Some of the questions, (a copy of the questionnaire is with
The Indian Express), which were required to ask villagers:
# According to you, which would be the best step for upliftment of Dalits? Options: free house; free sewing machines; self-employment avenues; free laptop; or increase in reserved seats in local polls.
# What step should be taken for betterment of Hindus. Options: Increase in Hindu seats; OBC quota; scholarships to Hindu students; declaring state holiday on all Hindu festivals; construction of huge Hindu temples; or increase the in number of gaushalas.
# What steps should be taken for welfare of below poverty line people. Options: Free house; employment; self-employment; sewing machines for women; free facilities for students.
# Which party would you vote for if SAD-BJP alliance is not there. Options: SAD, BJP, Congress, AAP, BSP, any other party, or no vote.
# What is your opinion about Arvind Kejriwal? Do you think he understands the sentiments of Punjabis? Options: Yes; No; Can’t say
# What is your view about AAP? Options: It is a good party; bad party; it is okay; or no opinion.
# What do you think about the working of PM Narendra Modi till now? Options: Highly satisfactory; average; dissatisfied; can’t say.
# What is your choice of CM candidate for Punjab. Options: Parkash Singh Badal; Captain Amarinder Singh; Sukhbir Singh Badal; H S Phoolka; Navjot Singh Sidhu; Arvind Kejriwal; Bhagwant Mann; or Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.
Contacted, Director, Students’ Welfare Ravinder Kaur Dhaliwal denied if students were called back because of political questions.
“Those who want to continue can do so. It is only after some students complained that they were facing problems in villages and being ill-treated for asking specific questions that we asked them to come back. We do not even know what are the political questions,” claimed Dhaliwal.
Immediately after The Indian Express questioned PAU official, this correspondent received a call from a representative of Gagandeep Singh Brar, special principal secretary to CM Parkash Singh Badal, enquiring why details of the survey were being sought.