An open letter to the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India
The current impasse in Manipur University


Hon'ble Sir,

With the highest respect and regards, we take the privilege of drawing your kind attention to the present impasse that has paralyzed the Manipur University for more than fifty four days now consequent upon the agitation spearheaded by the students, teachers and non-teaching staffs of the University demanding the removal of the present Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Adya Prasad Pandey. The protracted impasse has already begun affecting the academic prospects and career of around one lakh students including more than 16,000 odd students studying in various colleges affiliated to Manipur University since the long overdue result for the final (sixth) semester examination of the three years degree course (TDC) of the University still remained undeclared.

Sir, it may be recalled that when the present Vice Chancellor (VC) first arrived and joined the University on 13th December, 2016, he was accorded a very warm welcome by all the students, the teachings and non-teaching staffs of the University with the high hopes that he will lead the University forward to scale newer heights in academics. When he assumed the charge of VC, the Manipur University was already assessed by NAAC and the grading of "A" was communicated during his time. But unfortunately, the hope of scaling further heights soon became misty because of lack of commitment and determination despite strong request and persuasion by the students' community to properly streamline the administration of the University with a view to making the University a bright spot in the region and also in the country in the field of academics. However, it all fell on deaf ears and he continued with his casual and indifferent approach towards the functioning of the University.

The proverbial 'last straw on the camel's back' was his frequent and sudden disappearances from the University without proper leave keeping everyone in the University in the dark on where he was going and for what purpose and when he is returning, without any clear cut information to whom the charge of VC was assigned during his absence, etc.

It has been more than 54 days since the Manipur University Students' Union (MUSU) had started the agitation bringing all the academic activities in the University at a standstill completely paralysing the University, which has slowly but steadily affected the activities of all the affiliated colleges and institutions, too. This has also caused a serious problem on the law and order situation in the state. The lackadaisical approach and indifferent attitude of the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) right from the beginning of the agitation coupled with lukewarm response with no meaningful intervention from the concerned authority had further infuriated the students' community as if they are students of lesser Indians!

At the same time, both the Hon'ble Governor and the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Manipur shied away from the issue ducking under the excuse that Manipur University being a Central University there is hardly any role for the state Government to play. Though this appeared to be true on purely technical terms, they utterly failed to realise that it is their bounden duty to look after the academic interest of all the students of Manipur who are studying in different colleges and institutes in Manipur which are affiliated under Manipur University. They simply cannot run away from their responsibilities of looking after the interest of the students of Manipur even though the University under which they are affiliated may be a central one. Nothing can more deceitful than this!

In the absence of any timely and fruitful intervention, the situation in the University deteriorated with the students left like abandoned orphans, the Manipur University Teachers Association (MUTA) after a long discussion appealed Prof Pandey to immediately come out with an amicable solution by either refuting the charges or arriving at an agreement. As strong headed person as Prof Pandey is, he decided to ignore MUTA's suggestion with a terse response that unless the students open his office along with the administrative block, he would not come to the campus.

Frustrated with such arrogance and unfriendly attitude, the teachers body was left with no other choice but to join the agitation for his removal as launched by MUSU. Later on the Manipur University Staff Association (MUSA) also joined the agitation displaying a rarest of the rare unity among the different communities of the University, which perhaps is for the first time in the history of the University, with the unanimous demand for the immediate removal of the present VC, Prof AP Pandey for the sake of posterity. Soon the issue has become an issue of the state since it has slowly started jeopardising the academic future of the students of the state.

Following are gist of the charges, in telegraphic language, levelled against Prof AP Pandey by MUSU, MUTA and MUSA reproduced for your kind reference and perusal (Prof. AP Pandey henceforth is addressed as He unless specified otherwise):

1. He donated Rs. 2.00 lakhs to the ABVP from the University fund without any approval from any authority of the University.
2. Without any tender worth its name, he placed the order for installation of 'smart classes' in the University to a Lucknow based firm and also paid Rs. 5.00 crores without following any proper official procedure.
3. He procured the examination answer paper (modified without the approval of academic council) without any tender again to a Lucknow based firm at the rate of Rs. 24 per piece, which was earlier supplied by a local firm at a rate Rs. 5.00 per piece.
4. Similarly, most of the general items (both consumables and non-consumables) which were supplied following proper purchase processes by local firms were now procured from outside agents/suppliers without proper purchase process relatively at a much higher rate.
5. No serious efforts have been made to hold the Convocation since his joining when the last 14th Convocation which was held on 29th April, 2014.

6. In violation of the provisions of Section 22 of the Manipur University Act, 2005, no meeting of the Court of the University has ever been held since his joining.
7. No effort was made to appoint a new Chancellor after the retirement of Prof. Dilip Nachanne since some 16 months back to ensure that he continues to be one in all for the entire University.
8. The statutory requirement of holding 3 meetings of the Executive Council as well as the Finance Committee meeting in a year has never been fulfilled during his tenure. This is another serious case of violation of the University Act and Statutes.
9. Withdrawal in 2017 of approved courses like LLM, MA. (Fine Arts) and M.Ed due to lackadaisical and ineffective administration. 10. Selective Delegation of Powers only to his blue eyed coterie group like Prof. R R Pandey, Prof. Arun Saxena, Ganesh Sethi, and Prof Kh. Tomba who have all been alleged to have unethical business relations with him.

11. Arbitrary appointment of more than 20 persons on contract basis without any proper advertisement including the near and dear ones from politically active families.
12. His habitual habit of coming late in the office invariably after 1 pm despite repeated request from teachers and students of the University. This impacts interpersonal relations between the various groups and him.
13. Degrading the dignity of office of the VC to a level as low as a night club by partying in ungodly hours in his office with his unofficial guest including his coterie group, some businessmen and politicians.
14. His determined efforts not to fill up the statutory posts like Registrar, Controller of Examination, Librarian & Curator, Principal MIT, etc. to ensure that they are manned by in-charges to his benefits.
15. His continued absence from office without proper information on when he would be back causing serious problems to the students making it very uncertain when they can get their original academic credentials like the original certificate, mark-sheets, etc. Since his joining it takes about 2 to 3 weeks to get those documents which earlier used to take about 2 to 3 days only.

16. Most of the short term courses under Centre for Myanmarese Studies, Human Rights, etc.of one year now take more than 2 years to complete due to complete lack of apathy and timely intervention.
17. He is the first VC of Manipur University and perhaps among the Universities in the country to ride on a bullet proof car with "Y" category security status as if he is travelling in a University situated in war zone country site.
18. Students including even some teachers not in his good book are invariably subjected to body search by his Y category security personnel perhaps to frighten them with psychological warfare tactics and threat before meeting the VC.
19. His incorrigible habit of leaving the station at the drop of a hat at University's expenses without assigning any reason thereof nor giving the charge to anybody during his absence thereby leaving the University not only headless but direction less also for long period of time.

Due to his incompetence and indifferent attitude, the Manipur University which was given 'A' grade by NAAC could not be found in the first 100 position in the ranking published by NIRF. Despite his claim of doing good work for the University, the ranking further slipped below 300 in his second year! Will he further take the University down below 500 in his third year in the office? With all these achievements with quantum jumps in the wrong direction with lopsided intentions, all the three main units of the University community, namely MUTA, MUSU and MUSA have in a rare show of unity demanded his immediate removal from the office of the Vice Chancellor since his further continuation in the office will not only ruin the academic atmosphere beyond repair but also take the University in its nadir at the cost of the future generation of the students of Manipur.

His frail claim that the present movement is closely related with a demand letter for five crores of rupees that he received from a proscribed Underground Group (its identity still not made public)as reported by the Hon'ble CM of Manipur is not beyond any reasonable doubt. He perhaps tried to capitalize on the fact that Manipur being in the midst of a conflict zone anything can be blamed and justified in the name of insurgency related accusations. On the contrary, people of Manipur by now are quite accustomed to fighting for their rightful rights; be it from the excesses of the security forces or the insurgents groups through democratic protests. He has never disclosed or shared this information with the University community. If he has taken the MUTA and MUSU into confidence, the teachers and the students would have vehemently fought in his favour.

Or at least, he should have registered an FIR in the nearest Police Station. Since he has not taken any of the logical and expected steps, there is serious doubt about the genuineness of the claim. However, we strongly demand to properly investigate for the truth to be established either way. It was also claimed, perhaps as last resort, that he was targeted because he is an outsider. Nothing can be more misleading than this. Among the Universities in the Northeast India, Manipur University is perhaps the only University which ask for a man of integrity and equal visionary as a Vice Chancellor irrespective of his geographical location unlike other who openly demand for a local man to be appointed as their VC. Won't his claim of being targeted since he is a non-local contradict the warm welcome he received at the time of his joining?

Besides, two local VC in charges had to resign in quick succession under the students pressure just prior to his joining the office. If the person in the chair of the VC is not able to discharge his duty as demanded by the position to the expectation of all the stake holders, he is always shown the door not guided by parochial consideration of being local or non-local. The most fondly remembered VC of this University continues to (late) Prof.KJ Mahale, an outsider, who was the VC when the University was under state government. There is even a memorial lecture after his name. In this University respect is earned and not commanded on the basis of one's nexus with powers that be or political leanings!

After more than 54 days of the agitation, MHRD had finally instituted a fact finding Committee headed by the retired Acting Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court with two not so senior officers from the UGC and MHRD. However, the agitators are not accepting the committee as they will be conducting the enquiry while the VC is still holding onto his position giving rise to the suspicion that he can and will try to influence the enquiry through withholding of vital documents and information. Further, the two officers are much below the rank of VC and hence should not be made a member of such a committee. During the course of the meeting with the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Manipur on 24.07.2018 it was placed before the Hon'ble CM that while the investigation was going on, the present VC should not hold office and he may be given leave or suspended and an in charge VC appointed to look after the affairs of MU till the final outcome of the investigation.

Hon'ble Sir, we are aware that according to the criminal jurisprudence prevailing in India, a person is deemed innocent until proved guilty. However, even in the government to ensure that any enquiry is not influenced the charged or accused is either suspended or asked to go on leave. Hence to enable the matter to be brought to its logical conclusion, it is necessary that Prof. Pandey be asked to go on leave till the enquiry report is submitted. Based on the report, he can either return or quit, though his return is most unlikely as he has already lost the confidence of the University community. It may also be recalled that supporting the demand for his ouster all Deans, HoDs, etc. have already resigned bringing to a complete halt to the normal functioning of the university. In the light of all these, the only choice left before him is the Hobson's choice, that is honourably exit by gracefully resigning from the post before his eventual removal from the same.

The issue before us now is not the nitty gritty of the charges and counter charges, the honour or dishonour or the prestige of Prof Pandey but the serious issue of more than 16,000 students of Manipur who are anxiously waiting for declaration of the final semester examination of TDS. If the result is not declared within a short period of time they would be losing one academic year delaying their possible entry to a University or an institute for further higher studies here or elsewhere. Hence there is an urgency to get the Examination Cell to immediately function so that the results can be declared.

If the declaration of the exam result is not out by the first week of August for which the university have to start functioning before the end of this month, there is likely to be more problem arising out of it.

It is therefore requested that Your Honour will kindly cause to advice the VC to go on leave so that the fact finding committee can go ahead with its enquiry and submit the report. This will be the least possible step for the university to return to normalcy. Since a university must be made to be a centre for academic excellence and not a place for manipulation, nepotism, or corruption, only on the ground of violating the statutory provisions is enough to dismiss him. The University Act provides a number of authorities of the University and his act of defiance by violating the statutory provisions is a lucid example of how he intends to run the university without any responsibility. He perhaps is afraid that this body once duly constituted will question his administrative acumen or even call on his complete failure to run the university. The fact that the Court meeting has not been held even once, which he has not been able to refute, indicates the University is running without a proper approved budget.

We do hope that in the interest of the students and the university you will be kind enough to intervene so that normalcy returns in the campus.Whiie we appreciate your concern for wholesome development of the north eastern region of the country for an overall developed India, we would politely reiterate that the development of the NE region or any region for that matter begin with a firm footing in education especially in the higher education sector. Unless the Universities in the region are allowed to flourish without any political or other similar interference from any quarter, the higher education would still remain in its infancy with political spoon feeding.

We therefore firmly believe that you would kindly look into the matters of the Manipur University which is in state of paralysis for the last more than 54 days and come up with a solution that will make the University restore its 'A' grade and perhaps within the top 100 in the NIRF list. However, if no affirmative action is forthcoming from your good office within a couple of days, we will presume that the interest shown by you in your lectures and public address are nothing but mere rhetoric with no intent.

As mentioned earlier, the frustration is now almost complete and if immediate steps to open the university are not made by the end of this month, the agitation may enter a violent phase which will cause serious law and order problem. Till now the agitation is peaceful and without violence and it can turn violent any day if decision to open the university and declare the results of the 6th semester exam for the TDC by asking the VC to either go on leave or grant him compulsory leave urgently, which will save the career of these students.

Yours sincerely
Aakash Salam,
Democratic Students' Alliance of Manipur (DESAM).

* DESAM wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 03, 2018.

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