Friday, May 20, 2022

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PAU at a complete standstill – by KS Chawla

Punjab Agricultural University – the harbinger of the green revolution and one of the best agricultural universities of the country — is at a complete standstill, thanks to the alleged inefficiency of the Charanjit Singh Channi led government in Punjab. The PAU is without a regular vice-chancellor for the past seven months, as a result of which chaos prevails.

KS ChawlaThere is complete adhocism and all major and senior posts are being held as additional charge posts. The Channi Government failed to appoint a regular vice-chancellor, when Dr. BS Dhillon retired on June 30, 2021… after serving for ten years- the longest stint ever enjoyed by a vice-chancellor. Dr. Dhillon got three extensions in his tenure, which is a record in itself.

Two senior bureaucrats of the Punjab government have held charge as acting vice-chancellor but they could not do justice to the post because of their higher responsibilities in the Punjab government itself. First, Anirudh Tiwari was given the charge of the University acting vice-chancellor, but he was soon promoted as Chief Secretary and he had to give up the charge of PAU.

He is succeeded by DK Tiwari, another senior officer, who is the secretary agriculture besides having charge of many more departments. He is also not able to pay much attention to the working of the PAU, which is a full-time job.

This writer has been associated with the establishment of the Punjab Agricultural University since its inception in 1962. It was in October 1963 that the late Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru formally inaugurated the university. The University was lucky to have first two very upright and strong disciplinarian vice-chancellors, namely PN Thapar and Dr. MS Randhawa- both ICS cadre officers and both had played a major role in the rehabilitation of the refugees, who migrated to Punjab from across the border, and also organized the landholdings.

The dedicated scientists of the Punjab Agricultural University and the enterprising and progressive farmers of the Punjab state worked in unison and helped in wiping out the deficit of foodgrains. They not only abolished the hunger of Punjab, they also provided foodgrains to the people of the State and country. The green revolution was ushered in with the introduction of Mexican wheat varieties and rice varieties developed by the International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines.

Above all, there was no political interference in the functioning of the PAU under the stewardship of Thapar and Randhawa.

Political interference in the university began after the retirement of Dr. Randhawa and after Dr. Sukhdev Singh, who was Director Research at the PAU, was appointed as successor to Dr. Randhawa. But he was removed with the intervention of Sanjay Gandhi, son of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, and Dr. Amrik Singh Cheema was appointed as the vice-chancellor. But Dr. Sukhdev Singh was brought back when Darbara Singh became Chief Minister of Punjab and Dr. Sukhdev Singh served as vice-chancellor for two terms of four years each. The second term was granted to him by Surjit Singh Barnala when he became the Chief Minister.

The appointment of the vice-chancellor of the PAU has been the prerogative of the State Chief Minister since it is a state-funded university. It is the Chief Minister of Punjab who decides about the vice-chancellor of the PAU.

Chief Minister can force the removal of the vice-chancellor if he (vice-chancellor) does not toe the line of the Chief Minister. This happened in 2007 when Dr. KS Aulakh had to resign as vice-chancellor because he refused to open the university gate no. 6 which opens towards the residential area of Kitchlu Nagar.

The plea of the vice-chancellor was that he could not open the gate to compromise safety and security to the residents and the property of the university. But Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who succeeded Captain Amarinder Singh in 2007, insisted that the gate be opened because he had made a ‘public commitment’ during the election campaign. However, Dr. KS Aulakh refused to budge from his stand, being a man of strong principles and integrity.

He had a tiff with the Chief Minister and put in his papers. His resignation was accepted and it was for the first time that a vice-chancellor had to submit his resignation because of the rigidity of the Chief Minister. Dr. Aulakh was succeeded by Dr. Manjit Singh Kang as vice-chancellor.

He had come from the USA on the recommendation of Dr. GS Khush, a world-renowned rice breeder and an alumnus of the PAU. Dr. Kang had come to India (Punjab) after forty years because after obtaining a BSc (Agriculture) degree from PAU, he went to the USA for further studies.

When Dr. Kang took over, the university was in financial crisis and the pensioners of the university had to go to the Punjab and Haryana High Court for getting a pension. The State Chief Minister refused to help and asked Dr. Kang to sell the university land to raise money. Dr. Kang refused to sell the land and had to face a tough time. He started some self-financing courses to raise money.

Finally, Chief Minister agreed to give a grant from the Rural Development fund. So, two vice-chancellors were not treated well by the political leadership.

Since the selection of the vice-chancellor is the prerogative of the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal selected Dr. BS Dhillon as successor to Dr. Kang.

Dr. Dhillon was working in Germany when his selection as vice-chancellor was made. Dr. Dhillon, who had three extensions in his tenure allegedly danced to the tune of the political leadership. First, the best-maintained fifty years old regional research station at Bathinda was uprooted at the instance of the political leadership to accommodate AIIMS at Bathinda. AIIMS was originally allotted to Kapurthala but it was shifted to Bathinda to benefit Harsimrat Badal-daughter-in-law of Parkash Singh Badal. Similarly, the vice-chancellor kept obliging the Akalis and got extensions.

At present, the situation at the campus of PAU is chaotic. There are more than one dozen senior posts, including Director Research, Director Extension Education, Dean, College of Agriculture, the premier agriculture institute of the PAU, Dean Postgraduates Studies, Director Students Welfare, and many other such posts, which are held as an additional charge.

The posts have been lying vacant for a long time and no permanent selections were made by the outgoing vice-chancellor and because of the failure of the government to appoint a regular vice-chancellor before the announcement of the election schedule in Punjab, the university has come to a standstill.

According to Dr. HS Kingra, President, and Dr. KS Sangha, General Secretary of the Punjab Agricultural University Teachers Association (PAUTA), there are 34 teachers who were recruited after February 2021, who have not been paid their salaries. They have not been paid a single penny since their selection.

They said that the university was running on adhocism. Even the registrar of the University is not a regular person and is having an additional charge. There are problems of the teachers and students who need day-to-day heeding. The acting vice-chancellor does not have enough time to visit Ludhiana and sort out the problems. There are many departments that are without regular heads.

KS Chawla is a senior journalist based in Ludhiana.
Can be reached at:  [email protected]
Mobile: 99886-44244

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