Revealing Facts: Corruption, Lies & Wanton Dismissal of Faculty In Lohia’s Regime

It has been five years since Presidency was awarded the status of the university. The university is still in its infancy and it has already witnessed three different Vice-Chancellors in these five years, the first permanent Vice Chancellor being Professor Anuradha Lohia. Beginning May, 2014, Professor Lohia’s tenure extends to four years. A common adage in everyday parlance is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Perhaps the permanency of Professor Lohia’s appointment provided her the luxury to use the power of her Chair indiscriminately, and this she did quite well.

Prabir Dasgupta, the Registrar of Presidency University, was transferred overnight. It is pertinent to note that Prabir Dasgupta was one of few names who played a deciding role in forming the rules and regulations, terms and conditions of this university as it came into existence.  His transfer was a crucial blow, more so because Prabir Dasgupta instilled a certain unity among the students, teachers, non-teaching staff and administration. Being in the West Bengal Education Service, the government was well within its rights to ask for the services of Prabir Dasgupta. At the same time, the Vice-Chancellor could use her power to keep Prabir Dasgupta in our university, by placing the matter of this transfer before the Executive Council. Professor Lohia refused to do so.

To curb the ensuing protest, Professor Lohia asked the students to give her time so that she could resist the transfer of other teachers enrolled in West Bengal Education Service. In the following twelve months, teachers were transferred again, especially those teachers who did not refrain from questioning Professor Lohia’s policies. Professor Anik Chatterjee, Head of the Department Political Science, who was also the interim Head of the Department of Philosophy, and Professor Gour Roy, Head of the Department of Mathematics, questioned the policies of the Vice-Chancellor regarding the conducting of the Admission Test for 2015-16. They were transferred. Head of the Department of Statistics Professor Pipul Dutta, and Professor Debapriyo Bhattacharji, Head of the Bengali Department were handed transfer letters by our Vice-Chancellor.

Erudite scholars and brilliant teachers Bhaskar Gupta and Kamala Gupta of Department of Biological Sciences, despite their requests, were asked to leave the university. They had requested the Vice-Chancellor to give them a day so that they could resign from their government job, thereby confirming their appointment in Presidency. Professor Lohia declined their proposal. All these teachers applied for lien from government service and the lien was approved. Eventually they got a confirmation from Presidency University , now autonomous university, and its highest decision making body, the Executive Council. Under these circumstances Lohia, as the Vice-Chancellor, has no power whatsoever to release them from their service in Presidency. All these transfers had to be placed and approved in the Executive Council, failing which these transfers become illegal. Permanent as she is, Professor Lohia abstained from doing so and thus deprived the students of the esteemed service of these teachers.

While the former Vice-Chancellor, Malabika Sarkar, did not adhere to the order of the government by retaining the service of Professor Shyamal Basak on the logical ground that the Department of Mathematics needed able teachers, our present Vice-Chancellor not only signed the transfer orders with ease but also never said a word against this policy of the government to randomly transfer teachers at will. One can only assume that Professor Lohia wanted these transfers to take place so that she can nurture Presidency in the autocratic ways she wants.

Such transfers silenced the teachers. The student community ventilated their grievances against such unruly transfers. It was need of the hour to choke the united voice of the students. Attendance criterion were implemented to get the students back within the confines of their classrooms. Students who were involved in various protests and demonstrations were debarred from taking their examinations. Hunger strike after hunger strike followed, at times by twenty students. Each time the demand for a credit system, which acknowledges the involvement of a student in cultural programs, be it debate or drama, athletics and inter-college fests, was accepted to impede the strikes and movements but strategically, the call for a credit system never materialized. UGC norms talk of attendance criteria and also narrates the importance of the credit system should the attendance system be implemented. Strategically, the latter was denied to the students. Moreover, every time demonstrations were withdrawn, Professor Lohia gave the impression that she would look into the matter.  She promised regular meetings would be conducted, comprising of administrators, teachers and students and conveniently backtracked denying her promises.  One understands now why Professor Lohia never signed any deputation and the Dean of Students was made to sign the documents.  Professor Lohia had it in her mind to not appreciate and accept the demands.

What aggravated the consternation of students was the resignation of Professor Shukla Sanyal, Head of the Department of History, and Professor Deboshruti Roy Chowdhury, Dean of Students. Both alleged that the present administration, headed by Vice-Chancellor Lohia, suffocated the academic ambience and made it increasingly difficult to carry on with their responsibilities. Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharjee, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Distinguished Chair-professor, decided to quit his job. For though he was a celebrated professor, he was offered little space to work on his own terms and none of his suggestions were taken into account.  

There is no denying the fact that Professor Lohia does not humour dissent and discussion. She seems unaware of the heritage of Presidency where distinguished scholars have offered voluntary service not because of better employment but for their love and admiration for the institution.  Her attachment towards money and monetary logic demean the heritage of Presidency. And no matter how much she tries money cannot buy her Presidency. In fact, she has nothing more to offer to Presidency except her resignation.  

To read about the developments in the student protest, click here.

Sumallya Mukhopadhyay is a former student of Presidency College as well as Presidency University. He held the office of the President, Students’ Union Presidency University 2014-15.
Header photo courtesy: Debjit Thakur
Editor: Manisha 

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