Experienced teachers with a knack for administrative and financial responsibilities are traditionally appointed university registrars. Not so in Bihar, if the recent appointment of 12 registrars is anything to go by. None of the 12 de-facto heads of universities appointed by Governor Satya Pal Malik earlier this week is a teacher.

While 10 are chest-out, chin-up retired faujis, two are ex-babus of the Bihar Administrative Service.Officials justified the decision to dispense with the time-honoured norm of having teachers as registrars, pointing to the frequent incidents of mismanagement, financial irregularities and favouritism in universities.

“Since Army officers are highly disciplined and strict and have little direct links with the functioning of the universities, they will streamline operations of these institutions,” said Brijesh Mehrotra, Principal Secretary to the Governor. The Governor’s secretariat had requisitioned the names of probable candidates from the Army headquarters, and the final selection was made as per the recommendations of a search committee comprising vice-chancellors of three universities in the state.

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The candidates were interviewed on March 16 and the selections were notified on April 3. The decision has, understandably, met severe criticism and resistance from academicians and teachers’ bodies. They see it as an attempt to control university campuses and snatch away the ir autonomy.

“This is a retrograde step and must be rolled back immediately. Universities are temples of learning, and great sensitivity is required to manage places meant for young students. Army officers just do not fit in there,” said KB Sinha, president of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations of Bihar. “The last thing our campuses need is a fear psychosis,” he added.

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While the Bihar State Universities (Amendment) Act, 2017 and the Patna University (Amendment) Act, 2017 paved the way for putting retired civil administration officials like ADMs as registrars, bringing in army personnel is seen as “going too far.”“Stakeholders were not consulted before making this policy initiative. Even the issue was not brought before the UGC-mandated Bihar State Higher Education Council, chaired by the education minister,” said Arun Kumar, general secretary, All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations.

Some even see a “saffron motive to control universities.” Nawal Kishore Choudhary, a retired dean (faculty) of social sciences at Patna University, said the anti-student measure seems to have been imposed by the Centre. But even as teachers’ bodies are seeking legal opinion to challenge the move, some in the teaching fraternity say the experiment should be given a chance before being denounced.#KhabarLive

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