22 Jun 2021: UGC faces criticism over 'Thankyou PM Modi' posters at universities
Several universities and colleges across India are putting up posters, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the new, central government-sponsored coronavirus vaccination campaign. They were allegedly asked to do so by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the top higher education body under the Union Ministry of Education. The UGC is now facing flak from teachers as well as politicians over the directive.
Details: DU, NorthCap University, others put up posters
The Delhi University put up the posters and shared their pictures on social media and the homepage of its website. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, a state university in Jammu and Kashmir, also posted pictures on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. The message on the posters reads, "Vaccine for All. Free for all. World's largest vaccination campaign. Thank you PM Modi."
UGC email: UGC had sent an email to universities on Sunday
The UGC had asked universities to display the posters in an email on Sunday. "Universities and Colleges are requested to kindly display these hoardings/banners in their institutions. The approved design (creatives) of hoardings/banners in Hindi and English, as provided by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, are attached for your ready reference (sic)," the email read, according to Hindustan Times.
Confirmation: DU colleges, Jamia confirm receiving the UGC email
Several colleges of the Delhi University confirmed receiving the email from the Commission, Hindustan Times reported. DU Registrar Vikas Gupta, however, denied receiving such an email, saying they had voluntarily decided to display the posters to create awareness among students. Jamia Millia Islamia Registrar Nazim Jafri also confirmed receiving the UGC message, according to a report by ThePrint.
Fact: UGC directives are not mandatory, source says
However, a government source cited by ThePrint said that UGC directives are not mandatory. "If the universities are able to follow a certain order, good enough, otherwise it's not like they will be liable to action," the source told the publication.
Criticism: 'Political agenda': DU teachers criticize the move
Naturally, several teachers have slammed the UGC directive. Rajesh Jha, an associate professor at DU, said even as colleges are struggling to renew journals and procure laboratory equipment, the UGC wants them to put up such posters. "What is the need for it? Universities and colleges are not meant for propagating the political agenda of the government," Prof. Jha added.
Criticism: Opposition leaders slam the UGC directive
The move also invited sharp reactions from leaders of Opposition parties. Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi highlighted the vaccines "are being bought from taxpayers money," adding she wished the UGC "worked with same alacrity for students." Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav termed the directive "disgraceful." "As a former member of the UGC, I am mortified...Everyday, we discover a new low," Yadav tweeted.
New policy: PM had announced new vaccination policy earlier this month
Earlier this month, PM Modi had announced a centralized vaccination program, under which vaccines are being provided to all adults for free at government facilities. On Monday, the first day of the new vaccine regime, a record 85 lakh vaccine doses were administered across India. The Centre's previous vaccination policy had been severely criticized for several flaws, including differential pricing.
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