The Assam Government’s recent resolution to close down the Assam Woman University and convert it to a technical institution itself reveals contradictions prevailing within the government machinery.
It has also exposed the government inability to run the public sectors educational institutions as a result of budgetary reconstruction initiated by the Modi regime. Paradoxically, the state government has been engaged in recurrent announcement of establishment of various educational institutions including medical college and other technical institute in every corner of the state and at the same time trying to abolish the only woman university in the entire North-east that was established by an act passed by the state Assembly.
Now, let me come to the contractions unveiled by the leaders of the government while dealing with the protest movement that has been organised by different student organizations against the decision of scraping of the woman university.
The State Education Minister initiated the controversy on his twitter handle by negating the movement. He twitted, ‘now if our government is examining the issue and trying to rectify the situation, why are you on strike? It is a problem which I got from the previous government and we will try to resolve it. It’s as simple as that’’.
Accusing the previous government, in which he had held the responsibility of Education, Health and many other important departments for a long time, the Minister has said that the then govt had not created a single regular post of faculty and never endeavoured to appoint a regular vice chancellor for the university. Therefore without having a regular Vice Chancellor and a regular faculty the University can’t confer degrees to the student.
‘‘Also the then govt had not created a single regular post of faculty. Now the question is how the university was conferring degree so far without a VC and a single regular faculty? Should we be part of that or we rectify the position. I have to look at all these,’’ the education minister said in another tweet.
Surprisingly, while the Education minister has denied any concrete decision of the government with regard to the abolishment of the University, the Chief Minister clearly told a student delegation of the Woman University at Jorhat that his government has no other option but to abolish the current status of the institution and to transform it to a technical institute.
At this moment such contradictory statements are responsible for deepening the crisis and student community of the university concerned is in a situation of utmost uncertainty of their academic destiny. Question is, whether the present government is uncovering before the public the actual fact of this crisis or it is hiding something that are related with the recent economic drive originated after the great festive of Advantage Assam?
If we go through the different provisions of the legislation that has created the University, ‘The Assam Woman’s University Act ,2013’ then we will easily find that in the context of the closing down of the woman university, whatever deficiency has been raised by the government in response to the demand move up by the student community are totally untenable.
The act clearly has mentioned about the different officers of the university (Section 10) and also explicitly provides various provision with regard to the office of Vice Chancellor (Section 11).In 2015 the government brought a minor amendment to this section and inserted a provision where it was said that the Vice-Chancellor of the University would retire on the date he attains the age of 70 years [Section 11(4)].
Similarly subsection 11(5) was amended and made a stipulation as such – ‘‘the Vice Chancellor shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he/she enters upon his/her office and shall be eligible for reappointment.”
From these amendments we may draw a conclusion that though a regular VC was not appointed during the tenure of previous government, but the legal provisions have been there in the act, that further amended to accommodate a regular VC in the University.
Like these substantial legal procedures, the Act has also mandated the appointment of Professor, Reader, Lecturer and other non-teaching faculties by appointing one selection Committee (Chapter V).
Chapter VII of the Act elaborates the power of making/promulgation of statute, ordinances, regulations and rules. So the pertinent question is how the present regime can blame the previous government for its failure to appoint a regular VC and permanent staff where it has done no rectification in those issues in its long tenure of around two years after taking charge?
For Examining the issues of the Assam Woman University the Department of Higher Education, government of Assam constituted a committee vide order dated ATE/164/2015/91 dated 26th April, 2017 and the report of the Committee was submitted on 13th June, 2017 to the Principal Secretary, Department of Higher Education by the Registrar and member secretary of the said university.
In this report the committee unanimously resolved that the Assam Woman’s University (AWU) should continue as an affiliated university and suggested that the entire woman’s college of the state should be affiliated to it. Negating any kind of merger, the committee gave maximum emphasis on the infrastructural and quality development of AWU. Apart from other recommendations the committee in its report specifically suggested for permanent faculty, regular Vice Chancellor, Registrar and supporting non-teaching staff for moulding the institution as a premier academic centre for the woman.
Unfortunately, the Assam Government never ever has taken these recommendations seriously and now bypassing all those suggestions wants to scrape an institution that has been created by an Act.
The government position on this issue has also posed many questions and most pertinent one is- will this government act in accordance with their commitment to establish public educational institutions that have been promulgated on different occasions?
Or it has just demonstrated a kind of gimmick through those declarations to draw the attention of the public! The students’ community of the state must persistently have to review the government move on the issue to develop a stronger resistance against all kind of privatisation of our public sector educational institutions.
Kishor Kumar Kalita is a commentator based in Guwahati and can be reached at email@example.com