The writ of students, non-teaching employees and politicians will
no longer run in the decision making process of West Bengal's
state universities, unlike the scenario in the erstwhile Left
Front regime, with the Mamata Banerjee government unveiling a slew
of reforms aimed at leaving academics to academicians.
Before the April-May assembly election, Banerjee and a large
section of intellectuals had repeatedly criticised the Left for
establishing a 'partycracy' in education. The Trinamool Congress
chief had promised to rectify it if her party came to power.
True to her promise, this week her government passed an ordinance
covering 13 state universities and barring academicians who are
members of or associated with any political party from becoming
The ordinance, which has provisions for sweeping reforms, decrees
that university governing bodies like senates, courts and
syndicates would have no representation from students, research
scholars, legislators, state government nominees, non-teaching
employees, registered graduates, trade unions and peasant
organisations - something unthinkable during the Left rule.
These sections had been playing key roles in the running of the
universities during the Left Front regime. At times, the opinions
of these representatives, mainly with Left backgrounds, carried
more weight in academic matters than even top ranking varsity
administrators, including vice chancellors.
Principals of 15 affiliated colleges to be selected by the state
government will form part of the governing bodies.
The ordinance also provides for removal of vice chancellors on
several grounds, including incompetence.
However, the measures have triggered howls of protests from the
Left Front which described the passing of the ordinance as
"draconian" and "undemocratic", with the Left-leaning students and
non-teaching employees taking to the streets.
Education apart, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to be having
a rethink on the total aversion she displayed to her personal
security during the early days in power.
Banerjee suddenly seems to have woken up to the need for
strengthening the protective ring around her, of all places, in
the VVIP zone of the state secretariat. The ministers have been
barred from briefing the press from the podium outside Banerjee's
first floor chamber. The podium will now be used exclusively by
the chief minister, while her ministerial colleagues can interact
with the media in the nearby press corner on the same floor.
Banerjee, who had earlier asked police not to use hooters or stop
traffic to ensure free passage for her convoy and whose car still
stops at all traffic signals, agreed to a stricter security after
promptings from the security agencies.
Movement of people have been restricted over a 50-m stretch in the
VVIP corridor in front of her chamber - an unprecedented step.
During the Left Front days, mediapersons had free access in the
area and regularly posed queries to then chief minister Jyoti Basu
and his successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
However, according to police officers, Banerjee's security details
have been revised in the wake of a heightened threat perception
But it was in the area of health - a portfolio looked after by
Banerjee herself - that the government had its most embarrassing
A newborn died at a Murshidabad district sub-divisional hospital
Wednesday allegedly after its mother was swabbed with acid instead
of disinfectant for pre-delivery cleaning, leading to a furore.
The administration denied the charge.
The incident, days after the death of 28 babies in two government
hospitals, drew strong condemnation from the opposition as also
the civil society and brought into the open the fragile state of
health care in West Bengal.
Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)