On May 30, 2018, the students of Manipur University, later joined by the teachers, went on a strike demanding the resignation of their Vice Chancellor, AP Pandey. As you read this, it will be the 50th day of their protest.
Adya Prasad Pandey (also known as AP Pandey) was appointed the Vice Chancellor of Manipur University on October 26, 2016, after HNK Sharma completed his tenure in 2016.
The students of Manipur University claimed that there were already “dark clouds” of a management crisis in academic and as well as the administrative fields, and in the midst of that, the appointment of a new VC was the source of hope which soon turned out to be a false one.
“Till about six months, we thought that he’s new to the place, and hence, will take time to learn and adapt. But, slowly we found out that his knowledge and experience is not fit for a VC, and he is not interested in the development of the university”, said Prof. Lisam Shanjukumar, General Secretary of Manipur University Teacher’s Association of Manipur University.
The VC began appointing unauthorised people from Banaras to study the security problems in the University which were not disclosed to any statuary body. He also appointed people to guide him through the administrative duties for his tenure. “We found out his interest was only to build his chair, his image”, said Prof Lisam.
After ‘violating’ the University rules, the things went out of hand when he started taking leaves at the cost of the development and well-being of the University itself. “We requested time and again, from the student’s and the teacher’s side to do some development work and to do something for the students and for the university, but he ignored the requests”, Prof Lisam added.
The Manipur University Student’s Union (MUSU) has combined a draft that has listed 15 allegations describing the irresponsible nature and incompetency of the present Vice-Chancellor, the most important being his continued absence from the campus.
“He is out of station for 20 days, and only stays in university for about ten days, and the reason of being out of station can be official or unofficial, the reason is not clear”, says Mayanglambam Dayaman, President of Manipur University Student Union, (MUSU).
“He will say that he’s going for the welfare of the university – for UGC work, or some developmental work. But during his outside visits, he uploads all the photos on Facebook, which are not related to the university or its development. His visits include temples, to his friends, or the Home minister Rajnath Singh and all kinds of high profile government leaders. This leads to delays as all academic and administrative files are piled up in his office”, Prof Lisam added.
While the continued absence of the VC is surprising, important seats being empty is another major problem. “Nobody is appointed to statutory posts like the registrar, examination controller, the librarian etc. and these decisions have to be made by him”, said Dayaman.
According to Section 22 of the Manipur University Act 2002, “Court Meeting” is mandatory to assess the financial year’s performance; and the students allege that the VC intentionally violated this act. The absence of the VC in such meetings has caused failure in assessing as well as setting the objective for an annual period. He has also been accused of sanctioning huge sums of money to meet his ‘selfish and ulterior motives’.
He has also been accused of transferring ₹ 5 crores to a Lucknow-based firm for installation of smart classes in the campus. This step was in contravention the University’s rules.
“All the departments have been installed with smart class, but the price of the smart classes is not as high in the market, and he has not disclosed any details about the same. It needs to be enquired”, said Dayaman. “There is a lot of unaccounted money which he has used by lying to the students and teachers”, added Prof. Lisam.
The students are disturbed by the inaccessibility to the VC on account of him having procured Y-category security for himself in the campus. The presence of his security personnel all the time make him inaccessible to the students. Students claim many contractors, businessmen and politicians are seen in his chambers at night. “He’s meeting people not related to the university. He meets with his political party allegiances, his friends, hence, wasting his time. We are a university without a VC”, says Prof Lisam.
The students started their agitation on May 30, 2018, and that led to various strikes in the Manipur University campus and the colleges affiliated to it. Later, the Students’ Union was joined by the Teacher’s Association (MUTA) as well as the Staff Association (MUSA) of Manipur University. They initially demanded his resignation, but they also want an enquiry committee to check all the financial transactions by the VC. The students are democratically staging protests. Last week, they went on a relay hunger strike.
“He submitted a report to the Chief Minister claiming that an underground organisation is backing our agitations and we are doing it to fulfil their monetary demands. This is absurd”, said Dayaman.
The students plan to go on an indefinite hunger strike if their demands are not fulfilled. The indoor stadium of the University was burned down by an unindentified persons a few days back, and the students allege foul play. “We think the Vice Chancellor has tried to sabotage our agitation”, said Dayaman. The students are trying to reach out to the State and the Central government for solutions.
The students are finding it incredibly disheartening that the VC hasn’t communicated with them even once, and all academic activities have come to a staggering halt. “Without the removal of the Vice Chancellor, there’s no solution,” says, Dayaman.
The students have been taking to social media to make their voices heard. “It is very painful that Manipur University has now become the worst University in the entire country”, wrote Bankimchandra Bankim in a Facebook post.
The teachers of Manipur University were initially not a part of the agitation as they tried to communicate with the VC and resolve the issue internally. But, due to constant refusals, they joined the students in their protest. “As a MUTA secretary myself, and all the teachers, we went to his quarters and requested him to talk to the students and reach an agreement but he bluntly rejected our request. When we asked him to clarify the allegations, he said that he was not a public leader and hence he won’t do that”, said Prof. Lisam.
The Vice-Chancellor has denied all the allegations and said that the reason for the protests is his refusal to give money to the students. He claimed the Lucknow-based transactions to be transparent and called himself a true academician with a genuine purpose.
“Manipur university students have been publishing annual magazines, the money for which is collected during the time of admission. The MUSU students just requested him to give their money. We publish articles by collecting from the students, but he is now citing his inability to give money as the reason for our protests, just to deviate from the topic. He is saying anything”, said Dayaman.
After the initial silence, the government has contributed to resolving this issue at Manipur University by creating an inquiry committee for assessing the alleged activities by the Vice Chancellor, to which the students are not agreeing.
The students and teachers are demanding an inquiry by a high-level committee headed by a retired High Court judge or a Chief Justice and not the committee proposed by the HRD Ministry. “You see the HRD ministry is backing the VC, how can we agree to that. The Union HRD ministry has called the present agitators like the MUSU, MUTA, MUSA ‘anti-national’. They are trying to save one person by sitting on the careers of all the students of 86 affiliated colleges”, said Dayaman.
The students have met the governor, sent a memorandum to the President of India and the UGC, HRD Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. But, they haven’t received any response yet.
The students see the VC’s removal as the only feasible solution and are motivated to make that happen. They plan to intensify the protests if the inaction of the government and VC continues.
Meanwhile, the VC’s blunt refusal to resign has created a deadlock.