Ben­gal teach­ers fume at govt ‘gag’

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - HTNATION - Snigdhendu Bhat­tacharya

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).


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