There have been some very serious events in the recent past, which have sparked controversies and blame game, not good for the health of the Panjab University. The issue amidst the controversy is certainly not “whether Panjab University needs governance reforms or not”. In fact, no sane member of the Panjab University community, be it the faculty, members of Senate and Syndicate, non-teaching employees, students, etc., would argue against the need for reforms in the governance system, which has outlived its utility in numerous ways.
The Affidavit submitted by Prof. Arun Grover, Vice Chancellor, Panjab University, to Hon ‘ble High Court on 13 April 2018, was the catalyst, which caused an outburst of anguish by certain stake holders of the University. Present PUTA too was shocked to learn that certain suggestions had been submitted by the Vice Chancellor in Court on the basis of his analysis of the functioning of the governing bodies, to Hon ‘ble Court, without taking into confidence either the governing bodies or the present PUTA. A meeting of past PUTA Presidents was convened by Secretary to Vice Chancellor, on the issue, barring the incumbent PUTA President, for reasons best known to the authorities. The present PUTA has been completely in the dark regarding the involvement of earlier PUTAs in the preparing of the Affidavit/s submitted to Hon ‘ble High Court/Apex Court, from time to time. Actually, we came to know from the new reports today that some such resolutions had been passed by past PUTAs, however, we have not been supplied any copies of the same.
Your kind attention is drawn to the fact that the current PUTA, from day one, has WORKED towards governance reforms, be it the democratic functioning of various committees, transparency in administration, greater participation of teachers in decision making, observance of seniority in principle and a zero tolerance for pick and choose policy. Therefore, we do not have to make claims for what we have actually worked during the last about eight months. Whenever there is a process of effecting governance reforms, incumbent PUTA shall be the forerunner, given its credentials.
However, the issue here is not the indispensability of governance reforms, but “nature of reforms” and “process to effect these”.
The suggested reforms in the Affidavit of Vice Chancellor may prove to be even worse than the current system, with complete centralization of authority in the hands of Vice Chancellor and the Syndicate, while the posts of Deans are likely to go more political than these now are. Similarly, each clause in the current Statute has to be examined threadbare, by involving all stakeholders, including teachers, students, non-teaching staff, members of governing bodies, etc., no body, including the Vice Chancellor or even PUTA alone, has the prerogative to impose its verdict upon all the other stakeholders. The obsolete provisions in the P.U. Calendar regarding governance of Panjab University notwithstanding, the democratic system of governance enshrined in it, is unmatched and must be respected, especially when the whole world is celebrating democratization and freedom of expression.
We therefore reiterate that while we are completely for effecting reforms in our governing system, we shall not be a party to any drive, which is aimed at scuttling the free dialogue, democratic participation, freedom of speech and discussion on the issue. Why do the authorities need to shy away from bringing the issue to the open forum, the public domain, for discussion. Let us remind you that even before the enactment of a Statute by the Parliament, public views are invited so that a democratic process is followed, putting all aspersions and apprehensions to rest.
The very fact that current PUTA is being kept aside, while deliberating upon the issue, the governing bodies have been excluded from the discussion completely, makes us wonder as to whether our authorities are actually serious about effecting the so called governance reforms. While such acts have complicated the whole issue immensely, the process would have been smoother and more effective, had all the stockholders been involved, throwing the issue for a public debate.
Therefore, rather than passing on any suggestions on governance reforms to Hon ‘ble Court or any other forum, secretly, PUTA calls for an open debate among all stakeholders on the real issue, i.e. the nature of reforms and the recommendations, so that the issue can be clinched rather than getting twisted, creating even more groups within the stakeholders, and causing irreparable damage to the University.
As the first step in that direction, a Meeting of PUTA Executive is being convened, to deliberate upon the issue so that a democratic process of dialogue initiated.
Rajesh Gill J K Goswamy