FTII professors object to new Dean’s appointment, demand I&B Ministry probe

Atikh Rashid
The Film and Television Institute of India campus in Pune. (Courtesy: FTII)

TWO senior professors of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) have written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) complaining of process violations in the institute s recent appointment of Dean (Films) and have demanded a comprehensive process audit to probe the alleged violations.

The complaint, which has also been registered with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), demands a probe into the appointment apart from seeking an investigation into several other administrative decisions taken during the last four years, which the complainants said, might undermine the institution in the long run .

FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola has rubbished these allegations as false and baseless and arising out of personal frustrations of the persons who were earlier rejected for the position. Kainthola said that the Dean (Films) appointee was competent and experienced .

The professors, one of whom has sought protection as a whistleblower fearing harassment from the administration, have objected to the appointment of Dheeraj Meshram, who took charge as Dean (Films) in January 2019. The post of Dean (Films) academic head of the film wing at the institute was lying vacant for about 20 years since Mahboob Khan, the last regular holder of the post, retired. Since then, the post was being held by various inpiduals, either FTII faculty members holding additional charge or contractual appointees on one-year tenure.

Although the advertisement was released multiple times in March 2013, March 2014 and August 2016 the post was filled only in February 2019. In response to the March 2013 advertisement, the FTII had received a number of applications and had also interviewed five candidates, but did not hire any of them. In March 2014, the post was advertised again and online applications were invited from hopefuls, but interviews were not conducted.

A fresh advertisement was issued in August 2016 and 11 applications were received, of which two were shortlisted. This time too, the process, however, was kept in abeyance till October 2018. Meanwhile, one of the two shortlisted candidates withdrew his application. The only remaining candidate, Dheeraj Meshram, who was working as Associate Professor of Production at FTII then, was interviewed by a panel on October 30, 2018, and selected as the new Dean (Films).

According to official documents, there was only one candidate interviewed for the post of Dean (Films) it was Meshram. Since March 2016, at least two different inpiduals were appointed contractually to work as Dean (Films) until Meshram took charge in 2019 as a regular appointee. The post was advertised in 2016 with an application deadline of 45 days, but the interview was held two years later with just one candidate appearing for the interview. This shows that something is seriously wrong with the process, wrote the professor, who has sought protection as a whistleblower.

Generally, for such an important post, a recruiter will cast the net as wide as possible to get best possible candidates. However, what FTII seems to have done is cast the net as narrow as possible, as if helping someone get through easily, said a senior faculty member.

FTII Director Kainthola has refuted these allegations and said that Meshram was selected after due diligence .

The appointment of Dean (Films) has been made in accordance with laid down procedure. The appointment has been made on the recommendation of a duly constituted Selection Committee, whose membership is clearly stated in the Recruitment Rules for the post. The committee is chaired by Chairman FTII and consists of Ministry officials and an External Expert. After the tenure of Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman got over in March 2017, the interview for the post could not be conducted in the absence of a regular Chairman. The senior professors referred to were rejected by an interview panel when they appeared for the interview for Dean (Films). Yet they are questioning the selection of a competent and experienced faculty who has been selected after due diligence, Kainthola told The Indian Express in an email response. Meshram did not respond to requests for a comment.