Chandigarh: The appointment of a new vice-chancellor, Susheel Mittal, for the IK Gujral Punjab Technical University (PTU) in Kapurthala has sparked off a political controversy. The person chosen for the post, opposition parties and critics allege, does not have the required expertise or background, and the rules and processes laid down were not followed during his appointment.
In addition, Mittal’s past retweets and likes indicate a right-wing ideology. These have now gone viral, with many questioning the Aam Aadmi Party for its choice.
The new VC deactivated his Twitter handle @susheelmittal after his account came under public scrutiny.
“I urge Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann to clarify how the name of Susheel Mittal, a hardcore RSS ideologist with basic science degree was empaneled for the post of PTU VC,” tweeted senior Congress leader and MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira.
“That’s why I say ideologically AAP and BJP are two sides of the same coin,” he alleged.
While the AAP government has yet not reacted to growing criticism, senior Akali leader Daljeet Cheema told The Wire that favouritism has become the permanent norm in academic selection under the AAP government. All decisions of the Punjab government are made by the Delhi high command, he added.
He then said the VC must be appointed on the basis of merit, since the post represents the spirit of the institution. The new VC of PTU does not have the requisite credentials to run the university, he added
What the norms says
As per clause 10 (1) of the PTU act, the vice chancellor will be appointed from among distinguished persons in the field of technical education on the advice of the state government.
As per the university’s tweet, Mittal has a doctorate in chemistry, and before being appointed VC of PTU was occupying the VC’s post in SBS state university, Gurdaspur.
Mittal was reportedly picked by PTU chancellor-cum-Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit from a panel of three persons.
The other two persons ignored for the post had a technical background, reported Times of India.
One finalist, H.S. Bains, came from a mechanical background and was PTU registrar in the past, while another, Siby John, is a civil engineer and deputy director of the prestigious Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh.
An RTI activist from Punjab, Manik Goyal, told The Wire that the AAP government and Punjab governor are in constant tug of war over multiple issues, with both sides levelling serious allegations against the other almost on a daily basis. But the new PTU VC’s appointment shows how they operate together in matters of personal interest.
“If [chief minister] Mann is clean, he must clarify what was the need to include a non-technical man in the final panel sent to the governor and why he was the one selected over more qualified persons,” said Goyal.
He added that this was not the first case of favouritism. Last month, Punjab appointed a Delhi-based urologist as vice chancellor of Baba Farid Medical Sciences University, despite allegedly having more deserving people from within the state in the list sent to the governor for approval.
He said several colleges imparting technical education in Punjab are affiliated to Punjab Technical University. Therefore the head of the institute must be one who can take it forward and focus on the future employability of students, said Goyal.