On April 3, 2018, the Governor-cum Chancellor, Satya Pal Malik issued a notice appointing registrars to 12 universities in Bihar.
The appointments come as a surprise as 10 of the 12 newly appointed registrars are former army officials. According to news reports, the decision to appoint former army officials was taken to instil discipline in the administrative and finance-related functioning of the universities.
Magadh University in Bodh Gaya, Patna University and Pataliputra University in Patna, Lalit Narayan Mithila University in Darbhanga are a few universities that will now have army officials of the rank of the brigadier and colonel calling the shots.
Brijesh Mehrotra, principal secretary to the governor, was quoted in a Telegraph report saying: “Army personnel have been given the task as it has been observed that they are strict and also detached from the university’s functioning.” The report also stated that erstwhile registrars who’ve mostly been university officials or teachers have been accused of favouritism and financial irregularities as they knew other teachers and non-teaching staff from being a part of the university for many years.
Attempts have been made in the recent past to improve the quality of education in the state. The present chancellor is known to have implemented several initiatives like the choice-based-credit-system (CBCS), making academic and examination calendars, and a biometric attendance system for teachers and non-teaching staff but there hasn’t been great progress.
The decision has drawn ire from members of the Federation of University Teachers’ Association of Bihar. Kanhaiya Bahadur Sinha, working president of the association, said: “Universities are very sensitive places, and they cannot be handled with iron rods, they said. It (the decision) smacks of ‘regimentation’ of the centres of higher learning.”
A search committee was set up to recommend names to the Governor. The committee included vice-chancellors of Patna University, Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, and Nalanda Open University. The interviews were held in Raj Bhawan earlier last month.
A close watch must be kept on the impact that this decision will have on the select universities. University campuses must be open and free academic spaces for students and teachers. This ideal, and spaces have increasingly been under threat in the last five years.