New Delhi: Economist Mihir Shah, a former member of the Planning Commission during the UPA government, has said that he was abruptly asked to leave Ashoka University after seven years as a visiting faculty.
Shah, who is an advocate of MNREGA and social welfare, taught ‘The Political Economy of India’s Development’ course at the Young India Fellowship (YIF) programme for post-graduate students.
In an emailed response to questions from ThePrint, Shah said that he received an email from Pramath Raj Sinha, co-founder of the university, about the “non-renewal” of his annual contract citing “some curricula and budgetary changes following a detailed review recently”.
In his response to the university, Shah said if there was an issue related to remuneration, it could have been discussed personally with him, rather than over email. He also called his exit “arbitrary” and expressed worry on what he said was the way the university was being run.
Students and alumni support Shah
Shah’s exit has led to a face-off between the administration of the Sonepat-based university and its alumni and students, who have started a petition to reinstate him, according to an email chain accessed by ThePrint.
The petition, signed by over 200 students and alumni, said Shah’s course was one of the most sought-after at Ashoka University.
YIF is a one-year post-graduate, multi-disciplinary programme now in its eighth year. The programme offers courses in a range of core and elective subjects including math, literature and leadership. Shah’s course, which comprised 10 lectures and ran for about a month, was one of the core courses.
Ashoka University vice-chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta, it is learnt, informed the alumni and students that the administration had “reluctantly decided” to not invite Shah from next year, assuring them that the management’s decision is in the institution’s best interests.
The student who started the petition declined to comment. Anjoo Mohun, director of communications at the university, said it has “no comment on the issue”.
Ashoka University is predominantly a liberal curriculum university, and has an impressive faculty list from Gopalkrishna Gandhi to Gilles Vernier to Urvashi Butalia. In a few years, it has established itself as a leading liberal arts university in India.
Shah said the university’s decision came “completely out of the blue” — in fact, the feedback over the last seven years had been about how “invaluable” his course was among students and YIF staff. He said he brought a “unique blend of experience and expertise” to his teaching.
He said he was aware of the students’ petition and respected their “solidarity and support”, but said he had no intention to return to teach at Ashoka University.
This report has been updated to reflect that Mihir Shah was a visiting faculty at Ashoka University and re-edited for accuracy.