Monday, August 24, 2015

Amartya Sen: Public outcry after he quit Nalanda Univ has "worked", but will govt non-interference last?

By Our Representative
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who was “pressured” to resign from the chancellorship of the Nalanda University, has said that national and international hue and cry over the Modi government’s effort to interfere in the work of the prestigious international university has finally worked and that it has helped its “revival”, though wondering how long will non-interference last.
In an article published in “The New York Review of Books” (August 13 issue), Sen, who is one of the most well-known critics of Narendra Modi, said, it was “not surprising” that the Government of India interfered in the governing council of Nalanda in view of the “general record of the Modi government”, which led him to resign from chancellorship.
“The confrontations between the governing board and the government, and the removal of the chancellor, got unusual public attention, with wide coverage in the press and editorial criticism of the government in several papers”, which has “helped to have a restraining effect on the government”, said Sen.
“The widespread public attention and questioning have, in effect, helped the minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, to seek a solution that would be publicly defensible – rather than insisting on the unilateral extremism that characterizes many of the academic inerventions by the Modi government”, Sen said.
Thus, George Yeo of Singapore has “accepted the position with the assurance that he will have the independence that will be required for running the university”, Sen said, though commenting,
“It will remain extremely important, however, for the government to give Yeo the independence he will need to make Nalanda an academic success.”
Envisaged by the former UPA government, the Nalanda University began functioning as an international university in early September last year in backward Bihar receiving wide international attention across the world.
The new venture, according to Sen, was meant to be a revival of “Nalanda Mahavihara, the oldest university in the world, which began in the early fifth century”, adding, By the time the first European university was established in Bologna in 1088, Nalanda had been providing higher education to thousands of students from Asian countries for more than 600 years.
Calling it a “major venture”, Prof Sen said, soon after Modi came to occupy the helm of affairs in Delhi, relations became “troubled between the newly elected government of India and the governing board of Nalanda University” and he was “not entirely surprised to find that the new government opposed my continuing as chancellor of Nalanda University.”
Calling it part of a “general pattern of interference in academic leadership across the country”, Sen said, these included Dr Sandip Trivedi, who was told by the prime minister’s office “to be removed from his post”; IIT Delhi director Raghunath Shevgaonkar and II-Bombay director Dr Anil Kakodkar, both of whom were forced to resign following “government interference”; and famous writer Sethumadhavan, who left as chairman of the National Book Trust under pressure from the RSS.
“More recently”, Sen said, “the government has proposed a bill that would give it direct control over India’s thirteen Institutes of Management (IIM), the country’s main institutions for postgraduate education in management. This has been sharply protested by the directors and chairmen of the institutes themselves.”
At the same time, there have been dubious appointments like that of Yellapragada Sudershan Rao as chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), who is “more well known for his Hindutva-oriented opinions than for any historical research he has done", said said, adding, "In his paper 'Indian Caste System: A Reappraisal', he praises the caste system."

No comments: