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Nalanda University project marred by irregularities, nepotism

Author: Deepshika Punj and Ajay Kumar
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: June 25, 2012
URL: http://newindianexpress.com/nation/article550328.ece#

Nalanda University, a prestigious project of the UPA government, is yet to take off. It has been marred by irregularities and nepotism. In the centre of the storm is the newly appointed Vice Chancellor, Dr Gopa Sabharwal. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, chairman of the Interim Governing Board of Nalanda University and Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG), had recommended her as one of the three candidates. In his letter on February 6, 2009 to the then External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, the Nobel laureate says ‘it has been a difficult choice’ (selecting a Rector).

He recommended three names in the following order—1. Dr Gopa Sabharwal (Sociologist, Delhi University and Lady Sri Ram College) 2. Dr Ramchandra Guha (Historian, biographer and writer) and 3. Dr Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Political scientist, President, Centre for Policy Studies). The Nobel Laureate’s letter, written on a Harvard University letterhead, is a single page communication. It carries no details about the selection process, search committee or annexes any document submitted by the candidates. There is no information about the total number of candidates considered for the said post.

Sabharwal was eventually chosen though she doesn’t have the necessary qualifications; she was only a reader in the sociology department of Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi. The UGC states that vice-chancellors of central and state universities should be distinguished academics who have been university professors for a minimum of ten years.

Appointment Before

Act Enforced: Sabharwal was made ‘Vice Chancellor Designate’ through a DO letter dated September 9, 2010 instead of the mandatory Office Order. Fresh communication dated March 19, 2012 signed by Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs confirmed her as the Vice-Chancellor, Nalanda University with retrospective effect from October 8, 2010. This was before the Nalanda University Act, 2010, was enforced by the Ministry w.e.f November 25, 2010.

 Orders Galore: At the time Dr. Sabharwal was officially claiming to be the Vice-Chancellor, Nalanda University, the MoS, External Affairs E Ahmed—in a statement to the Rajya Sabha on August 25— 2011, denied that any Vice Chancellor has been appointed. On two of the three office orders, Dr. Sabharwal had signed as ‘Vice Chancellor’ even before her confirmation.Copies were marked to the Registrar, Delhi University. The first is dated January 20, 2011 appointing Dr Anjana Sharma, Associate Professor of English, Delhi University as OSD (University Development) in Nalanda University. Incidentally Dr Sharma has co-authored a book with Dr Sabharwal. Sources say the Ministry of Finance has not sanctioned the post. Sabharwal explains, “The decision to get them on board was taken during the last board meeting in Patna. Dr. Sharma joined us as the OS, in order to get the university functioning.” However, not even construction has started. Sabharwal also appointed Dr Padmakar Mishra, Deputy Registrar, Delhi University as OSD (Finance). Both appointments were made without issuing public notifications, mandatory for government jobs.

Capital Affair: The VC, meanwhile, works out of an office in Delhi. The university’s Governing Board is in a fix over toilets for her and her OSD in the Rajgir Office. Dr Anjana Sharma is on record saying that since there was no proper toilet facility in Rajgir, they chose Delhi. In the building lease and other document, Delhi is marked as the Headquarters of the university in contravention of the Nalanda University Act, which clearly states that the HQ shall be located in the district of Nalanda only. Sabharwal explains, “You cannot start office functions or classes at Rajgir without all the facilities on campus.”
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