THE deposed Vice-Chancellor of Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth (PKV), Akola, Raviprakash Dani, has said that his removal from the post barely 14 days before his retirement on the issue of citizenship was perplexing since his credentials were not hidden when he was appointed in 2012. “There was a selection panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Sirpurkar. It also had the then Additional Secretary of Maharashtra government S K Goel as well as former Director General of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) S Ayappan. Then, too, the issue of my citizenship had come up. Then Governor K Shankernarayanan had also asked me about it. I had told him that I was an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and had also cited examples of some others who were also appointed to similar positions despite not being Indian citizens. He had then vetted my appointed. So, why has it now been quashed?” Dani asked.
Dani was appointed as PKV, Akola V-C on August 14, 2012. The present governor’s office had said in a release on Saturday that he was being removed from the post after consultation with the Law and Judiciary Department and the Ministry of External Affairs on Dani’s citizenship status. “I had applied for OCI status in 2006 and received it,” said Dani.
He cited examples, such as former Rahuri PKV V-C Dattaji Salunkhe and Nanasaheb Pawar, as well as former Punjab Agriculture University V-C M S Kang. “Kang wasn’t even OCI,” said Dani.
Incidentally, Dani’s citizenship tangle had earlier cost him the position of director of Nagpur’s Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in 2009. “They had given me the offer after selecting me for it but later, never put out an order in black and white,” he said.
A former senior ICAR official said on condition of anonymity, “Our Prime Minister goes about inviting talented Indians back to India to serve the country. And here, his own government in the state is taking this irrational step and that, too, in a very uncultured fashion. He has been removed with just a few days before his retirement. It raises a lot of questions about whether things have really changed in India since the new dispensation took over.”
Dani returned to India after serving as Extension Biologist at Texas Tech University in US for 10 years between 2002 and 2012. He had also secured American citizenship there. Prior to his stint there, he had worked with the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nashik, for twenty years.
Dani, who has been accused of a few other things, like complaints by PKV employees against his style of functioning, for holding a training session for staffers at an institution called Initiatives of Change at Panchgani near Pune “without permission”, said, “I have a different style of functioning. I think being the V-C because I have worked for 10 years in a US university, it is well within my powers to undertake initiatives for the betterment of the university.
So, I did undertake some missions and have contributed a lot to PKV in the last five years.”
Dani, however, agrees that he may have rubbed some “powerful people” the wrong way. “One of them wanted me to vacate my bungalow at Nagpur, which I refused to do. I had also opposed ceding the PKV land to Akola airport for expansion. I had approached the AAI to get the plan dropped. The AAI then wrote to the state government that the airport wasn’t up for expansion. I had argued that if expansion was necessary, it should be done at Amravati’s Belora airport and there was no point in acquiring the fertile 60-hectare PKV land for it. But, they forcibly took it over and there is no expansion going on,” he said.
Dani had also opposed the handover of the PKV land at Nagpur for the Metro Rail and bus stand projects. “They wanted me to do it at the stroke of a pen and one powerful person said it in so many words. I refused to do it. But eventually, they did it and now they are taking more PKV land for a cycling track,” Dani added.
Dani said he considered setting up of a “prestigious undergraduate institute of biotechnology” at Akola, saving the controversial Sanskrutik Sankul on PKV land at Nagpur from being demolished by arguing the case in the Supreme Court, re-recruiting over “90 per cent” of the 185 staffers sought to be removed by a court order by conducting fresh process, as some of his achievements.
He also denied the allegation that he signed an MoU with Texas Tech University for “readiness of partnership to freely share technology” without the requisite permission. “World over, such MoUs are signed by universities within their own jurisdictions. If we become too bureaucratic, then how would we make our institutions autonomous, as prescribed by ICAR itself?” he asks.
Asked if he is planning to challenge the Chancellor’s decision, Dani said, “I will talk to some former V-Cs and will decide on further course of action soon.”