Bengal teachers fume at govt ‘gag’
KOLKATA: College and university teachers’ bodies in West Bengal on Monday expressed outrage over the draft West Bengal Universities and Colleges (Administration and Regulations) Rules, 2018, that, among other things, places restrictions on faculty members criticising the state government and its decisions.
The 28-page draft, that was drawn up earlier this year, was leaked on Sunday. The rules were framed after the act was passed last year. On February 8, a sevenmember committee was set up for formulating the rules.
Among other restrictions, the draft proposed that teachers would need written permission from the vice-chancellor to publish any article that does not exclusively deal with arts, literature and science. “No employee of the University shall without the written permission of the vicechancellor publish anonymously or in his own name or in the name of any other person in the press or any electronic media any document or make any statement of fact or opinion (a) that has the effect of adverse criticism of any current policy or action of the state government or the central government and (b) that is capable of embarrassing the relations between the state government and the central government or the government of any other state or foreign state,” reads clause 8 of the draft Rules.
“It’s unacceptable. We demand immediate scrapping of the rules. Teachers, staff and officers at Jadavpur University will observe a two-hour sit-in demonstration on April 26 and the agitation may be stepped up subsequently,” said Partha Pratim Ray, assistant secretary of Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association (JUTA).
However, education minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) secretary-general Partha Chatterjee responded saying, “the allegations of curbing freedom of speech are far from the truth. It constitutes a blatant lie.”
Syed Tanveer Nasreen, a professor of department of history in the University of Burdwan and a frequent columnist in various newspapers, expressed shock over the draft. “This is draconian. Why should I need permission from the V-C to comment on issues related to gender, social causes and even politics? Higher academicians around the world share their opinion in the media freely. I do not think the government can ultimately implement the plan,” Nasreen said.
Professors also pointed out section 21 of the rules that stated, “An appeal against the order imposing any of the penalties imposed by the syndicate or the executive council or the governing body/administrator shall lie with a tribunal to be constituted by the state government.”
The same section proceeds to say, “The decision of the tribunal shall be final and binding upon the university or college concerned and the appellant and no suit or proceeding shall lie to any civil court against the order of the tribunal.”
Lawyer and Congress leader Arunabha Ghosh said the provisions of the draft rules barring employees from moving court against the decision of the appellate tribunal would not stand the scrutiny of the law. “How can one be barred from moving court?” Ghosh asked.
“It is comparable to imposition of Emergency in the education sphere. Instead of encouraging free thinking, the government is trying to turn colleges and universities into jails,” said professor Tarun Kanti Naskar, who is also an MLA and the president of West Bengal University Teachers’ Association (ABUTA).
THE 28PAGE DRAFT, THAT WAS DRAWN UP EARLIER THIS YEAR, WAS LEAKED ON SUNDAY. THE RULES WERE FRAMED AFTER THE ACT WAS PASSED LAST YEAR