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Manipur University students, teachers want V-C out, say strike could impact state’s BJP govt

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Two panels have been set up by Centre to look into charges of financial fraud against V-C, but students and faculty say they won’t call off strike till he resigns.

New Delhi: A protest by students and teachers of Manipur University against their vice-chancellor entered its 50th day Thursday, and despite two interventions by the Modi government, sees no signs of abating.

The protests against Adya Prasad Pandey started on 30 May over allegations of financial misappropriation and arbitrary appointments among others. Deans of all six schools in the university and 32 heads of departments and centres have resigned from their posts in solidarity with the students.

The V-C has denied the allegations and has refused to resign.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) re-constituted a fact-finding committee to look into the allegations against Pandey, who came here from the Banaras Hindu University.

The new panel will be headed by retired Meghalaya High Court judge Nand Kumar and will have UGC joint secretary J.K. Tripathi and Surat Singh from the HRD Ministry as its members.

This, after the first fact-finding committee, comprising only Tripathi and Singh, was rejected by the students and faculty on the grounds that they had earlier worked with Pandey.

The new committee has been asked to submit its report within a month after field visits and consultations with various stakeholders.

The protesting students and teachers, however, told ThePrint that the HRD’s latest move will not put an end to the strike at Manipur’s only central university.

“Till the V-C does not resign, the university will not start functioning again. Even after he steps down, there should be an inquiry against him. The ministry has appointed a retired justice to probe the charges against the V-C but it has not said anything about his removal. The impasse cannot end till the time that does not happen,” Prof Yashawanta Singh of the Linguistics Department at the university, told ThePrint.

Singh said there could be political ramifications for the BJP as Pandey is associated with the party.

“The central government should understand that this can cost them their government in the state. The V-C is a BJP person and he will contest elections next year,” the professor said.

Host of charges

Apart from financial misappropriation, Pandey, who took over as the V-C of Manipur University in October 2016, is accused of not filling up many key positions, including that of a regular registrar, examination controller and librarian and curator.

“There is a list of some 15 allegations against the V-C. Of 30 days in a month, he is out of the state for 20 days, citing official work. He comes to office late at 12.30 pm and makes others sit with him beyond the official timing of 6 pm. When others start their work on time, why should they unnecessarily sit in office only because the V-C is in his office,” said another professor.

Pandey has also been accused of spending Rs 8 crore from the university’s funds on his travels in just a year and seven months. He has also allegedly arbitrarily created new posts on a contractual basis.

“There have been about 20 new appointments on a contract basis and we do not have any information on why these people have been appointed. He is also accused of favouring his son’s firm in Lucknow for many purchases for the university, like printing of answer sheets and buying smart boards,” the professor added.

Prolonged agitation

The students first took to the streets demanding Pandey’s removal on 30 May. Their strike has the support of the university teachers association and the Manipur University Staff Association (MUSA).

The HRD ministry stepped in after Manipur chief minister Biren Singh met minister Prakash Javadekar on 12 July and requested him to look into the matter.

The strike has affected 84 colleges affiliated to the university. It is also likely to delay the academic session, which usually begins in the first week of August every year. So far, the university has not processed admissions for the new batch, while examinations for the second semester have not been held in the university.

Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla termed the situation as serious, which should be dealt with on a priority basis.

“Thousands of students are suffering because the university is closed, classes are not being held. We are all concerned about it. The chief minister has met the HRD minister, home minister and even the Prime Minister in trying to find a solution to the problem,” the Governor told ThePrint over the phone.

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