‘Not here to relax’: Bihar guv Arlekar explains his priorities for state universities
In the past month, Bihar governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, 68, has removed a state university registrar and clipped the powers of five others who were appointed by his predecessor after his transfer was notified by Rashtrapati Bhavan
PATNA: Bihar governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, who moved to the Raj Bhavan in Patna from Shimla a little over a month back, has started his new innings with some strong steps including the removal of a university registrar and stripped five others, who were appointed by his predecessor after Rashtrapati Bhavan notified his transfer to Meghalaya, of their powers.
In an interview, Arlekar, 68, said he won’t hesitate to take more tough decisions that help improve the situation. As things stand, the governor said the students were suffering due to a lack of reforms and delayed academic sessions.
“I am trying to figure out the issues confronting higher education in the state by talking to a cross-section of people, including academicians, students, social organisations etc., to understand why and how things reached such a stage, what are the problems and how can they be overcome in the larger interest of students. I don’t want to delve into the past and what others did, but I will certainly try to correct what is wrong,” he told HT.
The governor said it was “our duty to set things right before it is too late”.
“I want to work along with others to bring about at least 90% improvement in a time-bound manner. I have got a hang of the problem. Even the basics seem to be missing. If the websites of institutions are not updated with everything the students need, who is responsible for this? If sessions are late, what is the reason and what can be the solution? There is no denying the fact that there is significant feedback about corruption and that is totally unacceptable in institutions of learning. Integrity is paramount. I am here to improve things. If it requires a revamp, I will do it,” he said.
The governor declined to comment on criticism of his predecessor Phagu Chouhan’s handling of the situation, saying he would rather focus on what and how he can bring to the table.
“Whatever is right needs to be continued and whatever is wrong, needs to change. The higher education system needs to be in tune with time to help future generations and the authorities have to take responsibility. The New Education Policy (NEP) is before us, but here the universities seem to be struggling even with the old one. Most universities are yet to implement the choice-based credit system (CBCS) and semester system. This is like pulling our bright students back. Bihar cannot remain aloof to the changes. It requires a uniform and up-to-date exam system, a prerequisite for CBCS under the NEP, to facilitate smooth credit transfers,” he said.
The chancellor said that he will soon organise a meeting of all vice-chancellors and academicians to address the problems in a time-bound manner.
“I will seek a definite plan to address the issues before us. It will be a day-long exercise. I will give a time-bound programme and expect compliance. The system has to deliver. Both the teachers and students must attend classes, routines should be followed and exams should be on time. As in good institutions, students must have a clear idea about everything the institution offers from the outset,” he added.
Expectations from the University Senate
Arlekar said he has started attending the university Senate meetings, reviving a tradition that had fallen into disuse for decades.
“It is my responsibility. What I have found in the couple of meetings that I attended is that it has been reduced to an exercise of passing the university budget. I have asked the vice-chancellors to ensure that there are at least two Senate meetings - one exclusively for discussing ways to improve academics and the quality of education. The members of the Senate have a big responsibility and they must shoulder it. I will attend Senate meetings of all the universities,” he added.
The governor said he was focussing on selecting people of integrity and merit for key positions such as vice chancellor, registrars, financial advisors and finance officers, exam controllers and principals through laid down procedures and transparency. “There are also other issues, but first and foremost is to look within if we are doing it right for the sake of a better tomorrow,” he added.
Everyone wants change
The chancellor said that everyone will have to contribute to the turnaround of the universities and those who don’t rise to the occasion will have to face the consequences.
“There are many talented persons who need an opportunity to deliver. I am not an education expert. I am seeking views… Everyone I meet wants things to change, which means they are not happy with the existing situation. I also ask for ways to go about it. Many people tell me students don’t go to colleges. I ask them why it is so. Then they say many teachers also don’t hold classes. The fact is that the 75% attendance criteria is just on paper. If small things are set right, big things will automatically get right. If an entrance test for all universities can be conducted at the national level, Bihar can also make use of it to reduce the burden. There has to be uniformity in the system and accountability for every action. I am reviewing why universities are saddled with court cases, why even promotions and retirement benefits are withheld for no valid reason, why statutory provisions are not followed. The institutions must conform to the yardstick set for them, as they have to prove their relevance,” he added.
The chancellor said that he would also look into the self-financing and distance education courses as well as various other factors that are basic to any university or college. “I will do whatever is required, as I am not here to relax,” he added.