Former colleagues State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and former chief minister Tarun Gogoi went hammer and tongs at each other inside and outside the Assam legislative assembly on Tuesday, with each blaming the other for the mess in which the Assam Women’s University was in at present.
Responding to a query in the House, Sarma said that it was true that he as Education Minister in the then Congress led government in the State had passed a legitimate Act to set up the University in 2013, but that soon after it was hijacked from him and instead of a vice chancellor being appointed, Gogoi had in his capacity of chancellor, appointed a Mentor in October, 2014 without consulting him.
“Jorhat is not a place which lacks a person of vice chancellor calibre. Nowhere in the statutes of the Act is there a provision for a mentor. In fact in the absence of a vice- chancellor should take steps to appoint a vice chancellor in charge until a permanent vice chancellor is appointed. Gogoi wanted the vice chancellor of Assam Agricultural University to run the University for his vested interest,” Sarma said.
He further said this mentor was signing the certificates of students’ qualifications for the past four years.
“A few days ago, a girl messaged to me that she was working in a college based on this certificate. But if a boy who ranked second in the interview challenged this in the High Court then it would be proven to be fake, “Sarma said, effectively sounding the knell for future admissions into this University.
The Education Minister said that even the teachers were youths recruited on a contractual basis and that there were no professors or associate professors to teach as was the norm of a University.
“I am doing my best to salvage the situation and working to see what can be done but am being attacked by Gogoi all the time,” he said.
Training all his guns on Gogoi, he said that the former chief minister was following a policy of hit and run as he was not accusing him of anything inside the Assembly but accusing him of destroying the University in front of TV cameras.
Sarma also emotionally added that Gogoi had not allowed him to launch the MRI service in the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, the setting up of which he had worked day and night or inaugurated the Kokrajhar medical college and hospital.
Gogoi counter attacked by stating to mediapersons outside the Assembly that the appointment of a mentor to start the University was not something which went against the Act as was evident by the University Grant’s Commission, the highest body under which all government universities operated in India, giving its recognition. .
“This University was not something of personal interest but was set up with the objective of women’s empowerment on lines of SNDT, Mumbai. When I appointed the mentor, Sarma never opposed this or suggested that it was illegal although he was the Education Minister, ” Gogoi said. Both challenged each other to a debate.
In response to the debate in the legislative assembly and a plea made by students and teachers, a clarification signed by LK Hazarika, the Academic Registrar, AWU and AWU officer on special duty GN Hazarika stated was issued.
“Vice chancellor of Assam Agricultural University was appointed as Mentor of Assam Women’s University by the department of higher education (Technical) on orders of the then governor until a permanent vice chancellor was appointed vide Memo No: ATE 22/1 2009/93-A, datedOctober 21. 2013,” the statement said.
Further the Assam Agricultural University was made mentor of the university to kickstart the Assam Women’s University and give guidance until further orders vide HE (T) Department Memo No. ATE 22/2009/92-A dated October 21, 2013.
The statement further stated AWU was empowered to award degrees by the UGC vide no. F.9-18/2014 (CPP – 1/PU, December 2, 2014.
Further formal degrees would be awarded on convocation day after the vice chancellor is appointed and that only provisional certificates had been awarded to the two batches which had passed out.
Also those students had been admitted on basis of merit as per laid down norms.
The clarification puts to test the claims made by Sarma on appointment of the mentor, his eligibility to sign qualification certificates and also AWU’s legitimacy to award degrees viz the UGC order.
The teachers and students of the University are on strike since March 19, and garnering support from Jawaharlal Nehru University and different parts of the State and Nation including AASU, ATASU, SMSS and AJYCP apart from Dibrugarh and Gauhati universities students’ unions.