Initiation of party infiltration is not an uncommon incident in West Bengal, the result of which is reflected in unwonted problems in Raiganj, Bhagar, Alia, Howrah, Malda, Jadavpur and Calcutta University. The latest inclusion to this list is Presidency University. As Mamata Banerjee entered Presidency on 21st August, 2015, she had to face a raging protest by the students. Her sole reason to come to Presidency was influenced by her desire to hand cheques of thirty crores to Vice-Chancellor Anuradha Lohia.
History states that neither Bidhan Chandra Roy nor Siddhartha Shankar Ray shared Mamata Banerjee’s sentiments when it came to granting monetary support to a budding university. Even Jyoti Basu refrained from taking such a step. That Mamata Banerjee’s goodwill to present cheques had concealed political connotation is articulated by Professor Lohia’s gesture when she is seen bent double in obeisance to the Chief Minister, a gesture she did not perform before Holiness Dalai Lama and Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak as they visited Presidency in 2015. For the last one and a half year, Presidency witnessed innumerable student demonstrations and movements owing to various steps taken by Professor Lohia. This growing consternation reached new heights as students were assaulted in the campus on 21st August. They gheraoed the Vice Chancellor for 27 hours and demanded her resignation.
To map the present state of affairs in Presidency one needs to go back to the last few years of Left regime in West Bengal. A well reputed college was given the status of an autonomous university. The change of government meant that new ways to decorate Presidency was the order of the day. Erudite scholars were invited in the Mentor Group, headed by Historian, and now member of Lok Sabha, Mr. Sugata Bose. Inefficacious proceedings of the Mentor Group were soon brought to light which lead to the resignation of Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri who wrote: “The widening gap between what is proposed for Presidency University and what other state universities including Centre of Excellence are getting has led me to resign.”
Despite the ceremonious welcome, the teacher recruitment policy was moderately slow and after Professor Lohia joined her office, interestingly teachers were transferred overnight. Few teachers resigned as well. The resignation of the teachers pointed to the loopholes in administration. Those who questioned Vice Chancellor Lohia’s policies were handed transfer letters. While Professor Shukla Sanyal resigned, Registrar Prabir Dasgupta, Professor Gour Roy, Professor Pipul Dutta, Professor Debapriyo Bhattacharji, Professor Anik Chatterjee, Professor Bhaskar Gupta and Kamala Gupta were released from their job in Presidency. All these teachers applied for lien from government service which was approved. Eventually they got confirmations from the highest decision making body of Presidency University, 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. Last month witnessed the resignation of Deboshruti Roy Chowdhury, the Dean of Students and Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharjee, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Distinguished Chair-professor.
Students perceive that the teachers, who are transferred to distant colleges in West Bengal, were prey to governmental manipulation in the immediate scheme of things. The Vice Chancellor’s sole concern, to stay in the good books of this government, has attracted a lot of attention. Her visit to Burdwan and London with Mamata Banerjee and embellishing the frontier of Derozio Hall with the CM’s favourite blue and white colours are cases in point. No wonder the students fail to trust Professor Lohia as the administrative head of the institution. With state intervention, autonomy of Presidency is at stake, and hence it is imperative that the present movement gathers strength each day. For students are defending the idea called Presidency, not merely its boundaries. It seems that the only way Professior Lohia can fortify this idea is by presenting her resignation letter to Presidency.
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