Horse-trading for V. C. Posts – Kerala Scenario

published on July 21, 2014

This is time news make rounds about the pseudo-intellectuals’ run from pillar to post for VC’s posts. As known commonplace it is politics and not educational qualifications and the related track records that make appointments to academic chairs in Kerala’s Varsities, a murky phenomenon that has become rampant for the past many years. The story ‘Govt. Risking UGC Grants to justify the VC appointments’(NIE, 30.6.2014) and Kerala Legislature’s Chief-Whip P. C. George’s recent pooh-poohing on horse-trading for V C’s post as usual would not altogether be a news to the academics of Kerala since the UGC has not so far looked seriously into the many political appointments that have degraded the academic dignity our universities once enjoyed. Complaints came up many times, but just to be dumped into the waste bins or kept for good in the bureaucratic deep-freezers, and no wonder such anomalous appointments went on in Kerala with none making bones about. It is categorically stated in the UGC Act as amended in 1985 that the UGC has the right to withdraw financial aid and even recognition if the institutions sidetrack from or violate UGC Regulations. But the question is who would execute this norm when the Central and State Governments as well as the UGC and University are manned by law violators more or less equal in power hunger though with different political hues?

There were even cases of the University syndicates passing minutes to violate the UGC regulations, the 2012 Kerala University Syndicate Sub-committee decision to dilute the norms being the most recent case. The Syndicate passed the minute that those who got into the teaching service before 13. 3. 1990 need not be PhDs to be Professors and Principals when UGC prescribes PhD as essential for it, an easy way to promote its members’ political co-commuters who were ‘Professors or Principals in weighting’ without the qualifications called for! Thus right from the level of appointing teaching staff, the Universities played foul with the result that few were the non-political appointments based on pure merit. Syndicates, the body consisting of both elected and nominated members too are noted for their political nature and academic pauperism – the former elected by those belonging to the politically oriented service organizations and the latter nominated by the political big-wigs in administration. In neither of the cases academic qualification is looked into. In all the cases the minimum qualification would do. But what is needed is the Universities with their decision making bodies stuffed with academics of high merit – that the UGC must fix a standard level of academic performance for those to be returned from the teachers constituencies so that even when the Board of Studies members happen to be their nominees, they would be, with their own academic acumen, able to identify the qualified candidates.

A scholar alone can assess the scholarship and identify the right choice towards the said bodies. Think of a less qualified person making selection to chairs where the highest qualified people are needed! Curious it would be. But this happens in Kerala’s Universities, and horse trading makes them kiss the dust in maintaining academic dignity. Un-academic, at times anti-academic, they become the shameless beehives of corruption and nepotism even quadrupeds would feel ashamed to indulge in. One may remember a former Kerala University VC’s open statement that he would readily vacate his chair on condition of getting back the eight lakh rupees he spent in his gamble for that post, leave alone the ongoing inquiry against its another former VC alleged of corrupt involvement in clerical selection! More curious than all these is the news report about a former two-time VC who, even as put under scanner in connection with Rs. 300 crore scam, is knocking at the doors of power to get rid of the said charge and clear his way to some national level academic posts.

Besides is the case of born-to-be-VCs who think that VC post is their birth right! Interestingly one of my colleagues who offered to join our union just a few months back enquired me about the possibility of getting a more lucrative ‘post’ than the Professor’s he occupied. These ‘Post-Men’ are a real problem. They would somehow or the other sneak on to an academic chair, and once there they try to make it life-long and would cling to it even if God of death descends to call them back. From one post to another and from there to whichever lucrative ones within their reach they would make rounds. Once in the orbit these self launched ‘satellites’ would carefully float avoiding the misfortune of plummeting. They would pool in their efforts to stick on and hover around the lucrative and influential posts. They would leave aside even their political affinities and would soar up above all ideological narrowness provided a much higher post would smile at them! It is also heard that the once white clad ones are now stepping into the second stage of their political asrama donning themselves in saffron in their shameless bid to sneak into the Central University. Rumour is afloat that those who have been on the VC selection panel of the Kasargod based Central University during UPA time are still under consideration notwithstanding the change of Government at the centre. So much are they intelligent in manipulating things in their favour. And if the new Government too would accommodate these horse-traders it would be another injustice done to the academic community of Kerala. Horse-trading has thus become an essential stage of probation to walk on to the academic high posts here. It is high time that the Central and State governments, political parties and their leaders identified these opportunists.

Author is Associate Professor of History, Sanatana Dharma College, Alappuzha and Kerala State Vice-President of College Adhyapak Sangh, Kerala College Professors wing of Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Saikshik Mahasangh.                

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