Two authors who have written on themes in tune with the saffron worldview and a former BJP MLC have been appointed to the prestigious position of National Research Professor. Weeks after the Smriti Irani-led HRD Ministry proposed names of writers S L Bhyrappa and Bali and lecturer Ashok Gajanan Modak, the Centre cleared them in the last week of December, paving the way for their appointment with effect from January 1.
Kannada novelist Bhyrappa courted controversy when he accused Tipu Sultan of being a religious fanatic in his novel Aavarna. A Sanskrit proponent, Bhyrappa has said attempts to keep the language away from the curriculum must be blocked. While releasing a collection of Kannada poems in July, he had said one cannot understand ancient India without knowing Sanskrit. Modak, an Economics lecturer who completed his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, was BJP MLC in Maharashtra from 1994 to 2006. He has worked on issues ranging from Swami Vivekananda to the Left rule in West Bengal.
The launch of Bali’s recent novel Mahabharat ka Dharam Sankat was attended by Irani and RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal. Bhyrappa and Bali had both signed a counter-appeal in favour of Narendra Modi as PM candidate in the run up to 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The National Research Professorship (NRP) scheme seeks to “honour distinguished academics and scholars in recognition of their contribution to knowledge”. “Persons of real eminence, who have attained the age of 65 years and have made outstanding contributions in their respective fields and are still capable of productive research, are considered for appointment as National Research Professor,” the ministry says. The term of an NRP is five years, extendable to a second term. NRPs are selected by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, HRD Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister. At any given time, there can be a maximum of 12 NRPs.
An NRP gets an honorarium of Rs 75,000 per month, a life pension of Rs 25,000 per month and a “contingency grant” up to a maximum of Rs 1,00,000 per annum.
As per information sought by The Indian Express from the HRD Ministry under RTI Act, there have been 45 NRPs since the scheme was instituted in 1949, including the three names recently cleared.
Nobel Laureate C V Raman was appointed the first NRP in 1949. Among those chosen for the position are physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, filmmaker Satyajit Ray, musician Pandit Ravi Shankar, writer Mahasweta Devi.