By : Prof. Homendra Naorem
Department of Chemistry, Manipur University
The 5th of Jun though observed worldwide as the World Environment Day has much more important connotation than the Environment Day for the public of Manipur because it is on this day in 1980 the maiden seed of higher education was sown in Manipur as the Manipur University in the historic ambience of Canchipur. The day is and must continue to be celebrated as the foundation day of Manipur University irrespective of the vicissitudes in its proprietorship from the State of Manipur to that of the Central Government. Oblivious to the general perception that summer vacation is a paid holiday for the teachers and the taught with no academic activity, the normal activities of the teachers and students especially the research scholars are hardly affected by the summer or winter vacation. In fact, it is the much fecund period of time when the teachers being temporarily relieved from their normal teaching schedules can devote more time to research and other academic or creative activities in sharp contrast to the common (mis)conception of being dubbed as paid holidays. One would always notice busy research scholars and teachers in their respective research labs well beyond the customary 5 pm mental barrier happily modeling and molding their tomorrows even during the summer or winter vacations. Curtailment or curbing of the vacation from the academic schedules would therefore be at the risk of deprivation of unearthing the latent talents of the researchers and the teacher guides as well.
Very unfortunately, this year in an unprecedented manner, the administrative block of the University has been locked out much before the scheduled summer vacation from Jun 6 till Jul 8, 2018 that led to slowly paralyzing the University and freezing almost all the academic activities in the University including a large number of examinations. The present impasse in the campus perhaps owes its genesis to the failure of the present VC to timely address some of the critical demands of the students which eventually boomerang into the present deadlock. Since then, the Manipur University Students Union (MUSU) has brought out a 15 points charge sheet besides a host of verbal allegations related to administrative and financial irregularities against the present VC demanding his immediate resignation or his dismissal from the present position.
Sensing the need and the urgency to restore normalcy in the campus in the larger interest of all the stake holders, the Manipur University Teachers’ Association (MUTA),mandated with a general body resolution, courteously appealed (as early as on May 4) the VC to publicly clarify the charges levelled against him at an early date with a view to immediately re-establishing the much needed normalcy in the campus. The present VC conveniently repudiated the appeal claiming that he owes no explanation whatsoever to the public, let alone the students’ body MUSU. The unyielding assertiveness of the VC to heed to the well-intended insinuations of teachers has coerced the teachers’ body MUTA to demand his resignation in resonance with the students demand in the larger interest of the University and the Society at large. Meanwhile the University continue to be in the state of ‘locked out’ with all academic activities at standstill. Left with no other option, another important section of the University, the Manipur University Staff Association (MUSA) has finally decided to join the movement against the present VC providing more impetus to the ongoing agitation. In a rare show of solidarity, MUSU, MUSA and MUTA staged a sit-in protest on Jun 26, 2018 against the indifferent attitude of the present VC demanding his immediate resignation to save the Manipur University from the worsening deterioration. The amalgamation of all the sections of the University community with a unanimous demand for the ouster of the present VC tells tales of the seriousness of the nature of charges levelled against him.
Among the charges levelled against the present VC, some are of very serious nature encompassing a wide spectrum ranging from financial and administrative irregularities, abuse and excessive misuse of its power and position, to willful violation of the rules and regulations of the University, while some are as hilarious as lack of punctuality and discipline in office. Regarding the charges related to administrative and financial irregularities including the misuse of power, only a high level independent enquiry can prove him guilty or otherwise. Unfortunately there is nothing to be probed or proved about his unpunctuality in coming to the University (allegedly after 12 noon!) and remaining in the office much beyond the official hour allegedly indulging in non-academic nocturnal activities. This is in addition to his usual absence from the University often with open ended leave applications flouting the normal established procedures for taking leave of absence.
Discipline and punctuality are two most essential traits required in any organization especially in institutions of higher learning like University to ensure not only the teachers and the taught but the other supporting staffs behave in an acceptable way in the campus and also adhere to the rules and regulations of the organization. It is of paramount importance that the Vice-Chancellor being the first member of the University community must necessarily emulate himself as the role model for the teachers and more importantly for the students who are at a critical stage of sculpting their own future. There are ample examples which suggest that individuals who are punctual and disciplined are not only likely to be more successful professionally but also in their personal lives. Like charity begins at home, punctuality and discipline in the University must begin at the office of the Vice Chancellor. On the other hand, lack of punctuality and the discipline in the highest office of the University would surely lead to slowly anaesthetizing the employees to attend office just for the sake of it thereby contributing, unfortunately, to the downfall of the University that provide them the employment! Again, indulging in an unbecoming manner and well avoidable misadventurism at the workplace would surely putrefy the entire work culture eventually leading to zero or negative productivity because there is grave differences between office and home and you just cannot behave in the same way at the work place as you would like to behave at home. This perhaps would be the most important reason, among others of course, of not finding the name of Manipur University among the first top 300 Universities in India, let alone the first 100! To be among the top few, let us first remind ourselves of the new concept of punctuality, ‘Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable.’ Good attendance no longer means sliding through the door at five minutes past the hour. Who but the VC would enforce such punctuality and discipline in the University by setting an example himself!
Only a few days back, after more than 20 days of MUTA’s appeal, the present VC through a press conference brought out a point by point clarification of the MUSU’s 15 point charges. It is not intended to play a jury here but it is for all to see how defensive the present VC has become. He hadarrogantly declared that all the five academic Deans wereon his side supporting him and they had not resigned on their own but under duress. But, the next day showed the Deans nullifying the gospel declaration of the present VC by publicly stating that they had resigned on their own citing his nonchalant attitude, even to the Deans of the University! This is what one would like to call an Ostrich like approach of the present VC. The voluntary joining of the erstwhile Deans has provided the much needed ammunition and momentum to the present movement giving renewed vigor to all the sections of the University community which have meanwhile unified under the gravitational pull of the Chandranadi and the Manipur University. Sensing, perhaps, the severity of the ongoing agitation which has paralyzed the entire University for nearly a month now and its undesirable repercussions in the long run, the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) is reportedly convinced that the charges are not nonsensical warranting a serious re-examination. If the reports are to be true, the MHRD has agreed to set up an enquiry to look into the charges levelled against the present VC. Meanwhile the University continues to be in the same state of paralysis!
It is worth pondering why the MHRD decided to set up an enquiry committee and what would come out of it! But before that, is the ministry sending out a subtle message to the present VC that his days are but over and he should resign to his own fate or giving a catcall to remain in that Ostrich like position (approach) until the dust around him settles when he can get his VC-ship recharged full life-time! In either case, courtesy would demand that he remained under (forced)leave or suspension while the enquiry against him goes on and he has to patiently await the outcome of the enquiry at the expenses of the University. In case the enquiry committee outcome goes against him, there is no second option left but to willingly or unwillingly demit the office of the Vice Chancellor immediately. That would not add anything positive to his reputation or resume and he has nothing to gain personally or otherwise save tarnishing the image of the University. If the enquiry exonerates him of the charges (unlikely because the MHRD would not have set up the enquiry in the first place if the charges are of not so serious nature), he may once again come back as the Vice Chancellor. But as a fall out of the long agitation that has irreparably damaged the reputation of the University, the Deans, the teachers, non-teaching staff and most importantly the students perhaps would not be willing to co-operate with him rendering him to be like a king with no subjects! The impasse only stands to be further stretched and the normalcy would continue to evade all of us. The only option available before him is the Hobson’s choice and it is for the person concerned to see and comprehend the writings on the wall.
It may be of pertinence to remind one and all of the bold and courageous decision of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who resigned as Railway Minister owning moral responsibility for the Ariyalur train accident in Tamil Nadu that left 142 people dead. History has never recorded him as a cowardly person, on the contrary, he was hailed as the man of courage and integrity by none other than the former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Shastri later on succeeded Nehru as the second Prime Minister of India. Even recently, the erstwhile Railway Minister in the present Government, Suresh Prabhu, tendered his resignation taking moral responsibility for the two train derailments in a span of four days and he twitted,‘Extremely pained by unfortunate accidents, injuries to passengers and loss of precious lives. It has caused me deep anguish’. Recognizing his courage and moral uprightness, Suresh Prabhu was given even more important responsibility and is currently serving as the Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation in the present Government. Only people with nerves of steel and courage can listen to their conscience and invariable they end up to be in better position. We would always like to remember our leaders as man of courage and conviction. Why the number of people of ‘moral courage’, ‘moral responsibility’ and ‘impeccable integrity’ has sharply declined in our country?