PhD row: Kerala professor quits to protest HRD's 'national priority' circular

Deepika S

Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 25: Meena T Pillai, a professor from Kerala, has quit the Board of Studies of Central University in protest over the central government's order that PhD students should focus on topics of 'national interest' and avoid 'irrelevant areas'.

"I was absolutely shocked when I read this circular. How can a circular like this be passed to all departments, and remain unnoticed. The only thing I could do is resign from board, " Pillai , who resigned from the Board of Studies of English and Comparative Literature, told NDTV.

"I thought it was a very insignificant act on my behalf, but the only thing I could do. Who decides what are national priorities? And why should research be restricted to just that?" Professor Pillai added.

On Sunday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi took to Facebook to express his discontent over the issue. "Now, self-attested wise minister (Prakash Javadekar) of a great intelligent Prime Minister will tell the intellectual of the country how they should do their work. The saying little knowledge is a dangerous thing is correct," he wrote.

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Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor has also tweeted in support of the professor. "Disgraceful HRD instruction that researchers can pursue PhDs only on topics of 'national interest' prompts Kerala professor to quit. The rest of us can join her protest by voting the troglodytes out!" he tweeted.

The circular, which was released by the university on March 13 read, "All the Heads of the Department are hereby directed to convene the meeting of faculties and to prepare a shelf of projects to be taken for research study pertaining to their subject considering national priorities. The student can opt from the shelf of projects."

It also states "...discourage research in irrelevant areas. When fellows are being admitted for PhDs, the topic for PhDs should be in accordance to national priorities. Allotting privilege topics to students should be dispensed with."

The university issued the directive after a Vice Chancellor's meeting held in New Delhi, last December.

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