Why The Tamil Nadu Government Has Ordered A Probe Against Anna University Vice-Chancellor M K Surappa

Why The Tamil Nadu Government Has Ordered A Probe Against Anna University Vice-Chancellor M K Surappa

by M R Subramani - Monday, November 16, 2020 01:21 PM IST
Why The Tamil Nadu Government Has Ordered A Probe Against Anna University Vice-Chancellor M K SurappaM K Surappa.
  • The ruling AIADMK government’s move to order a probe is more of a “witch hunt” than anything else, and a “warning” to other vice-chancellors, say educationists.

During the weekend, the Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) government in Tamil Nadu ordered a probe into various allegations, including charges of bribe, against Anna University Vice-Chancellor M K Surappa.

But educationists in the state view the move as a “threat” asking Surappa as well as other vice-chancellors to toe the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government’s line.

The state government said that retired justice P Kalaiyarasan will investigate the allegations and submit a report within three months.

Among the allegations made against the Anna University Vice-Chancellor are bribery to the tune of Rs 80 crore, examination scams and giving wrong information to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

“He is one of the most honest vice-chancellors in Tamil Nadu today. The enquiry was ordered because he did not toe the government’s line. There are several lapses in the announcement of an investigation,” said E Bala Gurusamy, former vice-chancellor of Anna University.

One of the foremost issues with appointing an investigation panel is whether the state government can technically order such a probe.

“The state governor, as the chancellor of the university, is the appointing authority. He has to issue such an order since the state government is not the appointing authority,” said Gurusamy.

“This seems to be a move to warn other vice-chancellors. Basically, threatening them,” the former Anna University vice-chancellor said.

Prof P Kanagasabapathi, who has been part of many universities’ syndicate in the country, said higher education in Tamil Nadu has deteriorated in the last two decades and the investigation against Surappa has been instigated by officials, who have not been able to get away with their own ways.

Times of India’s Chennai resident editor Arun Ram wrote in his column today (16 November) quoting his education correspondent A Ragu Raman that a cross-section of faculty members and others of Anna University had termed the investigation as “witch hunt”.

Some of the revolutionary steps that Surappa took included cancelling discretionary quota in post-graduate admission besides removing the discretionary powers of the vice-chancellor.

Among other things, he had cut down needless expenses of the varsity, acted against a cartel involved in exam malpractices, fixed minimum marks in the entrance test for PhD, raised the qualification level for faculty, drafted in faculty from Indian Institute of Technology and other illustrious institutions, and increased research publications by the university.

“Some of the vice-chancellors that Tamil Nadu has seen are criminals who have ‘looted’ indiscriminately. No enquiry was conducted against them. Surappa’s only interest was to improve the quality of education.

“Because of the vice-chancellor’s attitude, the government could not intervene. In other varsities, politicians intervened in their functioning but Surappa did not allow that in Anna University. So, the state government is now out to harass him,” Gurusamy said.

The former Anna University vice-chancellor said that investigation had been ordered without finding any prima facie evidence. “Even when I was vice-chancellor, such letters used to go to the government. The problem is that a vice-chancellor cannot please anyone and those upset resort to such measures.

“The government should have been fair, forwarded the letter to the registrar and sought his comments. Nothing of that sort happened,” Gurusamy said.

Kanagasabapathi, now vice-president of Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party, said corruption was the worst in Tamil Nadu, where more money was demanded for getting things done.

“The problem for the state government now is that Governor Banwari Lal Purohit has ensured that good candidates are appointed as vice-chancellors to avoid corruption. Vice-Chancellors are appointed on merit and nothing else,” he said.

“Only in Tamil Nadu can you find government officials trying to protect those involved in examination scam. These officials are failing to cooperate with vice-chancellors whose functioning has been affected. Surappa was not handicapped by these and he took on all those corrupt,” Kanagasabapathi said.

There are two main reasons why the ruling AIADMK is upset with the Anna University Vice-Chancellor.

One, he sought the Institute of Eminence (IoE) status from the Centre for the varsity despite the state government opposing it. Surappa justified his move saying the university can fund its needs through internal resources, which upset the ruling party.

As of now, the state government has opposed IoE status for Anna University on the grounds that it would affect its 69 per cent reservation policy.

The other issue is the move of the Higher Education Department trying to ensure even final year engineering graduates were promoted without writing the exams. The problem with this was many students had over 20 arrears.

Surappa did not accept the Higher Education Department’s decision to promote those who had arrears. He said the Anna University will not implement the order for such students.

He justified his decision saying the AICTE had communicated that it would not accept awarding of marks without conducting the examination, especially for those who had arrears.

Surprisingly, the state’s move has drawn support from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President M K Stalin, who has sought the vice-chancellor’s suspension pending enquiry.

However, what these politicians ignore is that there can be no suspension without an enquiry.

The reaction is not surprising given the hostile reception from the Dravidian parties to Surappa's nomination as the university vice-chancellor with some questioning his Karnataka background.

Probably, the ruling AIADMK government’s move to order a probe without even seeking a simple explanation is proof that this is more of a “witch hunt” than anything else.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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