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Education

Why a Government-Run University in Adityanath's Bastion Gorakhpur Is Up in Arms

Students and faculty members are demanding the removal of vice-chancellor Rajesh Singh, accusing him of irregularities, arbitrary decisions and bad behaviour with teachers.

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Gorakhpur: In Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s bastion Gorakhpur, Deen Dayal Upadhyay University is in the eye of yet another storm. Students and faculty members have launched a protest against the vice-chancellor, Dr Rajesh Singh, demanding his removal.

Professor Kamlesh Kumar Gupta of the Hindi department was recently suspended for holding a satyagraha (peaceful protest) against the VC and a committee has been formed to probe Gupta’s actions. Show-cause notices were also served to seven professors who extended support to Gupta, and they have been fined a day’s salary.

Following Gupta’s suspension, students and other faculty members held a protest until the university closed for the winter break. As the situation escalated, the chancellor/governor’s officer on special duty (OSD) reached Gorakhpur amid calls for the VC’s removal. The protestors have resolved to resume the agitation after the vacation if their demands are not met.

Singh has been a controversial figure ever since he took charge of DDU University 15 months ago. He is accused by staff members of acting arbitrarily and defying several of the university’s acts and statutes, owing to which opposition against him has intensified. He allegedly introduced more than five dozen courses without a proper curriculum, faculty and infrastructure and without securing approval from the state government. He is also accused of harassing staff members and engaging in money laundering.

Before being appointed at DDUU, Singh was the VC of a university in Purnia, Bihar, where too his tenure was marred by a number of controversies. His appointment as the Gorakhpur university VC raised eyebrows as an investigation against him is pending with the Lokayukta.

Singh made tall claims when he was appointed at Gorakhpur. He proposed to introduce professional courses at the university and raise its standards to the international level, but his methodology soon became a point of contention. Initially, there were hushed protests against the way he scolded staff members in meetings and issued notices randomly. But after his alleged ‘insensitive attitude’ over the death of two teachers of the university during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the dissent against him spilled on to the streets.

Conflict and controversy

During the past seven-eight months, the VC has been at loggerheads with the president of the University Teachers’ Association, Professor Vinod Singh, the office bearers of the College Teachers Association (GUACTA) affiliated to Gorakhpur University and the former registrar.

In April last year, VC Rajesh Singh had removed the then registrar, Omprakash, alleging non-cooperation and appointed Professor Ajay Singh as the acting registrar. However, Omprakash challenged the VC’s decision, saying that according to the University Act, the VC cannot remove him from his post. Later, the government also claimed that the VC cannot dismiss the registrar. The matter was resolved when the registrar was transferred.

Soon after, the VC had another confrontation with the president of the University Teachers’ Association, Vinod Singh, when he wrote a letter to the VC urging him to grant ex-gratia from the Teachers Welfare Fund to the families of two teachers who had died of the coronavirus infection. The VC responded that an application regarding such a payment should be submitted by the kin of the dead. To this, Vinod reacted sharply. He wrote another letter to the VC to nominate the election officer for conducting the election of the teachers’ union. When the VC did not respond to his letter, Singh resigned from the post of president of the teachers’ union.

The VC also came into conflict with the office bearers of the College Teachers’ Association (GUACTA) affiliated to Gorakhpur University. The VC initiated disciplinary proceedings against the president, general secretary and former president of GUACTA. Rajesh Singh said that the three teacher leaders had entered his room without prior permission. He issued notices to the three teachers and asked the principals of their respective colleges to take action against them.

GUACTA officials protested against the VC’s decision and met the governor and chancellor about it.

A video of the VC scolding the head of department, economics has also gone viral on social media.

The controversy over QS World University Ranking

The VC of Gorakhpur University claimed in the media that Gorakhpur University has been ranked among the top 100 universities in the QS World University Rankings. His claim was challenged by Professor Ashok Kumar, former VC of the DDUU, who said that the university is nowhere in the QS World Rankings 2022 and 2021. Its name did appear in the list at rank 96 in 2020 but for the purpose of assessment only. The matter was widely reported on social media.

Rajesh Singh reprimanded the teachers of the university, publicly stating that most of the university’s department heads and faculty failed to advertise the university’s QS World Ranking on social media. The VC had then said that he would soon issue an order making it mandatory for all the department heads and teachers to have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and post positive comments about the university daily.

Agitated students

The students of the DDU university are also protesting against poor management of hostels, and the administration’s decisions to disallow students’ union elections and conduct examinations for about 1,000 pre-PhD students under the new system. Admission procedures for PhD programmes in the academic session 2019-20 and the course structure were based on the PhD ordinance of 2018, but the examination for the same has not yet been conducted. However, Singh issued a new research ordinance and is adamant on conducting the examination of pre-PhD students based on it, against which the students have been agitating for the last three months.

Before the BJP came to power, the student union elections were held in 2016 after a decade. Union elections were again announced for 2017 but violence between student groups led to the last minute decision to postpone them. Since then, each year students have been asking the administration to allow elections to be conducted, but to no avail. Students are miffed because the VC has paid no heed to their demands.

A sea of notices

The VC is also notorious for issuing notices to staff members at the Gorakhpur University. Professor Kamlesh Gupta says that he has received more than 20 notices so far and has stopped counting them any more. Recently, a senior professor who received show cause notices said that out of 300 teachers of the university, about 100 teachers have received notices on one or the other issue. A day after she raised a question in a meeting, a senior female teacher got a notice for travelling out of town without permission even though she was merely visiting her home near the city on a holiday.

The response to these notices served to teachers is often sought within two-three days. In most cases, the media gets to know about the notice before it is even received by the concerned staff member.

That seven professors who supported Gupta’s satyagraha are going to be served show cause notices was reported in the media on December 21. It was also reported soon after that they would be fined a day’s salary. However, the notices dated December 23 were received by the teachers on December 24. Even before the notice was served, orders had been issued to deduct one day’s salary of the professors.

The professors informed the OSD of the chancellor about this and highlighted that filing the charge sheet after the decision to punish has been taken was a result of prejudice and ill will.

More than five dozen self-finance courses introduced without basic amenities

The VC has started more than five dozen self-finance courses in this session for which admissions have also been done. These include courses in engineering, agriculture, hotel management and catering, banking and insurance, yoga, Vedic mathematics and others. Diploma, PG diploma, advanced diploma and certificate courses have been introduced in all subjects. Five courses of yoga have been started in addition to a certificate course and PG diploma course on the Nath sect.

Most of the departments and teachers who have been charged with conducting these courses do not have any knowledge or expertise in these subjects. The courses on yoga and the Nath sect have been handed to the Department of Philosophy, while the Department of Political Science has been handed certificate courses in film production, advertising and public relations, new media, election strategy, political leadership as well as hospital management. A professor from the same department has been made the coordinator of the four-year course in hotel management and catering.

The new courses introduced are so many and varied that even the university staff members are unable to keep count or provide details.

When asked about it, registrar Vishweshwar Prasad said that 39 new courses have been started but no admissions have been done in some courses this year. He asked us to contact the director of self-finance courses, Professor Vinay Pandey, for more information. Pandey, in turn, said that complete information about the number of courses and the status of admission can be obtained from the office once the university opens.

It is alleged that the decision to start these courses has been taken without the permission of the state government, in haste and without following due process. Neither has teaching faculty been appointed nor is there proper arrangement for classrooms, laboratories and libraries to conduct these courses. Yet admissions have been carried out and classes begun in haste for some courses while students have been charged hefty fees.

The university’s law department introduced two one-year self-finance courses this year – PG Diploma in Intellectual Property Rights and PG Diploma in Cyber ​​Law – for a fee of Rs 25,000 per semester. But very few applications were received for them, so they did not start. The decision to introduce the courses was taken despite the law department already grappling with a shortage of teachers and classrooms. A five-year BA LLB course was started here four years ago, for which a classroom has not yet been arranged and students are forced to take classes in shifts till late in the evening. At least 15 teachers are required to teach the course, but so far only three teachers have been appointed on contract.

DDU University, Gorakhpur. Photo: Manoj Singh

The condition of other courses is no different. There is no building for BTech studies. Once the admissions were over, the examination and evaluation building was used as the BTech department. There is a plan to use the university guest house as the Department of Hotel Management and Catering. Similarly, a part of the Diksha Bhawan, which was set up for girls’ education, has been declared to be the Faculty of Agriculture.

The curriculum for these courses has also been developed in haste. A senior faculty member claimed that the syllabus is still incomplete and has been prepared by heads of departments and teachers under a lot of pressure. The guidelines laid down by the UGC for curriculum preparation, known as the Learning Outcome Based Curriculum Framework (LOCF), have not been followed. Forty to 50 contractual and guest teachers have been appointed to teach these courses but reservation norms in the appointment of these teachers have not been complied with.

Kamlesh Gupta addressed it as a major issue in his complaint to the chancellor. He said that self-finance courses affect the finances of the university. Therefore, according to Section 52 (b) of the Uttar Pradesh State University Act 1973, the approval of the state government is crucial. Gupta asked the university administration whether permission was sought from the state government before new self-finance courses like BSc AG, MSc AG and BTech were introduced, but received no reply. He also expressed surprise on how the government can grant permission to run a course for which there is neither faculty nor infrastructure.

Financial crisis

The university has been going through a financial crisis for the last six months. Teachers and other employees are not getting their salaries on time. Outsourced employees have not received payment for several months. The reason for the current crisis is that the government has not granted the university the fund allocated under the non-salary head.

To tackle the financial crisis, the university plans to utilise the fixed deposit of Rs 52.98 crore made two decades ago. Considering the current state of affairs, the teachers and students of the university have raised the following questions: When there is a financial crisis, why is money being spent extravagantly on new courses? Where did the money received as fees of so many self-finance courses go? Why are consultants hired on a hefty salary?

Favouritism in the university

VC Rajesh Singh has also been accused of favouritism, as it is alleged that he assigns important tasks to a few teachers and ignores the others. The VC also allegedly does not inform others about who is in charge, in case he takes an off. In the last week of December, when the VC went on an academic leave, it was learned that he had given the charge to Professor Ajay Singh, ranked 22nd in the seniority list.

Gupta came to know about this from the registrar after he sought to meet the person in charge in the absence of the VC. The registrar told Gupta in writing that during the VC’s vacation, his duties are being discharged by dean of student welfare, Ajay Singh.

The GUACTA officials have also alleged in the complaint to the chancellor that only a few teachers have been assigned additional remunerative work. The complaint letter alleges that only three teachers of the university are working on more than one remunerative posts, whereas as per the provision given in section 34(2) of the Act, no teacher of the university or affiliated college can hold more than one remunerative post.

The complaint to the Chancellor

The voices of dissent against the VC have even reached the governor’s residence. First, GUACTA approached the chancellor regarding their grievances. Later, Gupta gave a written complaint to the chancellor in which he accused the VC of misbehaving with teachers, abusing and threatening them, acting against the rules, endangering the lives of teachers and employees by not following COVID-19 protocol and guidelines, and not granting ex-gratia to deceased teachers’ kin from the Teachers Welfare Fund.

He has also been accused of pressurising teachers to do illegal work, irregularities in research entrance examination, spending hefty sums on advertisements, and needlessly appointing consultants at the monthly rate of 75,000. Another question is raised as to why the VC is stressing on the use of OMR sheets in examinations, which is costly as well as stressful for students. Gupta alleged that the academic council’s recommendation was not considered for it. The multiple-choice method is being employed for subjects which were taught with traditional methods putting the students under stress.

He has also alleged that Rajesh Singh, while applying for the post of VC, concealed that there were serious charges and investigation against him in Purnia University, Bihar.

Gupta alleged that the VC is imposing unlawful orders at his whim and has paralysed the constitutional bodies of the university like the Course Committee, Faculty Council, Academic Council, Admission Committee, Examination Committee and Finance Committee, and is now engaged in neutralising the Executive Council as well. He demanded the immediate removal of Rajesh Singh from the post of VC and asked for a probe into all the financial dealings in the university during his tenure.

Suspension of Kamlesh Gupta

Gupta hoped that the office of the chancellor would take cognisance of his grievances and take appropriate action. But he was in for a shock when he received a letter sent by the chancellor’s OSD, stating that his complaint had been forwarded to the VC who had been asked to investigate it and apprise him of the proceedings.

Gupta asked how the VC can investigate the complaint made against himself. The professor announced his decision to launch a protest from December 21. He was suspended on the very first day of his protest. Gupta was scheduled to be appointed as the head of the Hindi department on December 28, but the VC, citing his suspension, replaced him with another professor as the head of the department.

Gupta was criticised for vitiating the academic environment of the university, and accused of missing classes without notice, not teaching according to the timetable, using unparliamentary language, asking personal favours of students, harassing and threatening them if they do not comply, extorting money in oral exams in colleges, misbehaving with female students, spreading misinformation about new education policy, new syllabus and CBCS system, doing negative publicity of the university on social media, indiscipline, gross negligence towards discharge of responsibility and dereliction of duty.

According to a release issued by the university administration, eight notices have been issued from time to time by the registrar to Gupta, but no satisfactory response has been received. It alleged that the dignity of the university administration and officials is being tarnished by him continuously on social media. His conduct is against sub-sections 2, 3 and 4 of Section 16 of Chapter 16(1) of the Statute of the University and the Conduct Rule 1956 of the Government of Uttar Pradesh, it said.

Despite his suspension, Gupta protested for four days and was soon backed by university students, teachers and former teachers.

Meanwhile, Pankaj L. Jani, OSD to the governor, chancellor, came to Gorakhpur on December 26 and met the students, teachers, heads of departments, Gupta and seven professors who have been issued show cause notices. He also spoke to the acting VC, registrar and proctor, and inquired about the situation in the university. He said he would submit his report to the chancellor. Teachers who met Jani said that most of the heads of departments told him that the conditions in the university were tense and stressful. The delegation of students also demanded the removal of the VC and asked for the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) to be implemented from the next academic session.

Manoj Singh is the editor of Gorakhpur Newsline.

Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.