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Mainstream, VOL LV No 44 New Delhi October 21, 2017

How would the Charlatan BHU VC going on leave Help the Institution?

Monday 23 October 2017, by Sandeep Pandey

The controversial Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Professor Girish Chandra Tripathi, has now gone on leave indefinitely. It turns out that he was not only a disaster for the university but was also eroding the credibility of the reputed Indian Institute of Technology on the campus as its Chairperson, Board of Governors. The Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, mentioned the IITs among India’s achievements in her United Nations General Assembly speech but this VC could care less.

His name was not there in the panel of five for appointment to the Chairman, Board of Governors of the IIT at BHU, yet he was foisted upon the IIT by the then Minister for Human Resources Development, Smriti Irani. Irani’s educational qualification is suspect and Tripathi’s academic record is dubious, with no research publication in his name to date. As mediocre people meddled in the affairs of academic institutions of national and international importance, it was bound to boomerang at some point. While Irani had to be replaced as the Minister of HRD because of mishandling campus after campus, Tripathi now stands thoroughly exposed as an anti-intellectual, intransigent, morally bankrupt, patriarchal, arrogant, irrational and tyrannical administrator. His capacity for shamelessness is unfathomable. Three days after the incident of sexual harassment on the campus on September 21 which snowballed into a major controversy, he tried to regularise the appointment of Dr O.P. Upadhyay, convicted of sexual misconduct by a Fiji Court, as the Medical Superintendent of the Hospital on the campus. It was because of his trying to push such cases of inappropriate candidates that a Professor at the IIT Gandhinagar, Michel Danino, also a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research, had resigned from the university’s Executive Council in November 2015.

Tripathi treated the University as his fiefdom and the IIT a toy to play with. It turns out that he had not finalised the minutes of the meeting of the IIT Board of Governors held on July 8, 2016 with more than a year having elapsed. Until these minutes are passed, the next meeting cannot take place. Other members of the Board suggested to him to call a meeting to finalise the minutes. But Tripathi remained incommunicado on this issue.

As a result of Tripathi’s shortsightedness important decisions are pending implementation. Appointments of five Deans of the IIT—that of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Research and Development, Alumni Affairs and Faculty Affairs—has been put on hold as the acting Deans manage the day-to-day affairs. Besides the Director, the Deans play an important role in the running of the IITs. Several appointments, especially security-related, are also awaiting finalisation of the Board decisions. In the light of recent events on the campus the importance of security appointments cannot be underestimated. But the most serious damage it has caused to the IIT is that democratic functioning of the administration has been usurped. Whereas in the normal course decisions were taken in Board meetings and implemented, now for the last over one year every decision has been personally approved by the Vice-Chancellor as the Board’s chair with the other members having no say.

According to the rules, at least two meetings should be held every year. Only a special meeting was held in June 2017 to approve the pay scale in which the VC refused to discuss the approval of minutes of the July 8, 2016 meeting saying that the special meeting was called to discuss only a specific matter. He almost held the institution to ransom. Now that he has been made to proceed on indefinite leave, the situation of the Chairperson, IIT Board of Governors has been left in a limbo. The IIT is in a state of uncertainty not knowing what is in store for the future. It is unthinkable is that it didn’t prick a pygmy VC’s conscience, who subscribes to an ideology which constantly harps on nationalism, that he was hampering the functioning of an institute which is a symbol of national pride.

It would be instructive to see who the various chairpersons of several other IITs are. IIT Kanpur Board is headed by R.C. Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Udyog Ltd., IIT Delhi by Kumaramangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group, IIT Mumbai by Dilip Sanghvi, Chairman, Sun Pharma, IIT Kharagpur by Sanjiv Goenka, Chairman, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, IIT Chennai by Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd., IIT Guwahati by Dr. Rajiv Modi, Chairman & MD of Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and IIT Roorkee may have a new Chairman in the form of Anil Kakodkar. Most IIT Boards are chaired by industry leaders who are there because of their vision and dynamism. Can we imagine any of them sitting on the minutes of a Board meeting for over a year?

Let us compare Tripathi with the names that were originally proposed by the IIT Board from among whom it wanted its chairperson to be chosen. The panel of five included N.R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys, Pankaj Chandra, earlier Director of the Indian Institute of Manage-ment, Bengaluru and now VC, Ahmedabad University, Kiran Karnik, presently one of the Directors of the Reserve Bank of India, Sanjay Dhande, former Director, IIT Kanpur, and Narendra Ahuja, formerly Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. All of them established themselves and built their credibility over the years. What is Girish Chandra Tripathi’s claim to hold this prestigious position? He has no achievements to show in any field which makes him fit to be even a Professor, leave aside such positions as the VC and Chairperson of the Board of Governors, that too of an IIT!

The performance of G.C. Tripathi has been so hopeless that even the persons involved in elevating him to a position for which he was not deserving must be taken to task.       

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

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