VCs council takes exception to WB Guv's letter

Kolkata, Jun 3 (PTI) The West Bengal vice-chancellors council on Wednesday took exception to the letter to the VCs of the state universities by Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, stating that all communications required to be sent to him as the chancellor should henceforth be directed to him and 'not through any other authority'.

The Upacharya Parishad (VCs council), in a statement, said it unanimously feels that the interactions with the governor had undermined the honour and prestige of the vice-chancellors, which was 'uncalled for'.

The statement said the VCs remain committed to the promotion of the cause of higher education in the state and 'they perform their duties in consonance with the terms of the existing Acts and Rules issued from time to time, specifying the roles of the state government, Hon'ble Chancellor, Vice-Chancellors and other statutory authorities'.

Dhankhar, who is also the chancellor of the state universities, had in his letter to the VCs on Tuesday said, 'Several Vice Chancellors have routed communications through the Higher Education department quoting the provisions of the 2019 rules. Such a stance betrays lack of appreciation that no rule can override a provision of the Act.' The West Bengal Assembly had, on December 10 last year, passed a new law that enabled vice-chancellors to call meetings of their highest decision-making bodies in consultation with the higher education department and not the chancellor, as was the earlier practice.

The new rule further stipulated, 'Every communication proposed to be made by the chancellor to any state-aided university shall be routed through the higher education department.' Dhankhar, in his letter, had said, 'It is noted that the West Bengal State Universities (Terms and Conditions of Service of the Vice-Chancellor & the Manner and procedure of Official Communication) Rules, dated December 9, 2019, do not override provisions of the Acts of various universities.' State Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee had told PTI on Tuesday that the provisions of the Act passed by the Assembly on December 10, 2019 was actually drafted in 2017.

The VCs Council also expressed anguish over the 'unfortunate interactions' between Dhankhar and two of its members -- Professor Nimai Chandra Saha of Burdwan University and Professor Debkumar Mukherjee of Coochbehar Panchanan Barma University -- over the phone.

The phone call to Saha was made on the issue of appointment of the pro vice-chancellor of Burdwan University and the call to Mukherjee was related to a show-cause letter in connection with the convocation of Coochbehar Panchanan Barma University, it said.

'We are deeply pained by the humiliation faced by Professor Saha and Professor Mukherjee during their interactions with the Hon'ble Chancellor,' the council said in the statement.

'The Upacharya Parishad feels that the actions of both Professor Saha and Professor Mukherjee were guided by the relevant sections of the West Bengal State Universities Rules, 2019 and they need not have experienced what they faced,' the statement by the 20-member VCs' body said.

It said as West Bengal is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Cyclone Amphan, every university is grappling with multiple challenges relating to holding of examinations, completion of courses, admissions to the upcoming session and addressing the material and psychological needs of students and other sections of the university community.

'Hence, the situation requires united action by all concerned,' the statement signed by council general secretary Subiresh Bhattacharya said. PTI SUS KK RC