For 20 days now, the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) is closed and nobody seems to care. On one hand Chief Minister is promising education revolution and on the other hand 2200 students are staring at the loss of one academic year, depression and police harassment.
The closure in this case is neither to ensure law and order nor summer vacations. Till date the government, particularly the education ministry has failed to solve the biggest crisis facing the education sector in its tenure.
The crisis which could have been easily resolved in the first week has now snowballed into a major issue thanks to inept handling of concerned officials. It all started on May 20, when news surfaced about the scholarship scandal in the university. 42 cheques worth Rs 15 lakh given by Tribal affairs ministry for deserving Pahari candidates were cashed by the university officials in connivance with bank employees. The cheques had signature of the then Registrar Mohammad Rashid Chowdhary.
Chowdhary denied them being his signature. JK Bank terminated one of its clerk who never had any authority to pass the cheques single-headedly. Police started investigation and they hoped everything will be hunky dory. This infuriated students who demanded removal of Chowdhary from the vital post. Till then many other skeletons tumbled out of Chowdhary’s cupboard and ultimately students went on a strike on August 10.
Illegal appointments, illegal promotions, commissions in contracts, scandal in catering service, unauthorised purchases, conversion of UGC funds into fixed deposits and even registrars own appointment against rules came to fore. Still no alarm bells rang with the government.
On August 25 students in one of their umpteenth meetings with Vice Chancellor Irshad Hamal promised to remove Chowhdary and attach him with his office. Students called off strike only to resume it next day when Chowdhary came in the same car, sat in the same office and enjoyed same powers. It was the tipping point for students and they demanded explanation from VC for breach of agreement. The VC on August 26 replied in kind by closing the university sine die literally dragging the students out of hostels after their electricity and water connections were snapped.
“We didn’t ask for Chowdhary’s termination. We just wanted him to sit out so that he won’t influence the investigation. If he was innocent he was welcome to come back,” said student.”But to save Chowdhary they sacrificed career of 2200 students. This is what when people fight against corruption.”
The case becomes interesting after education ministry stepped in. On 31 August Education minister Nayeem Akhtar told that Chowdhary was sent on a forced leave and university will be opened after 15 days. Next day VC trashed Akhtar’s statement by saying there is no question of forced leave. “He had applied for a normal leave on 25th August and we granted it. There is no forced leave,” VC said.
The curious case is that at that time no university official knew about the file containing leave sanction of Choudhary, which according to them was sanctioned even before government acted.
Incharge registrar Mohammed Ishaq denied having any such file and said it is with special secretary to VC, who also denied having it and said it can be with VC or registrar. In reality, according to sources, the application was kept open to be filled as they wish with any date and number.
“They were keeping roads open for him to be brought in any time,” said an insider.
Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar admitted that the university is beset with problems and even government is finding it difficult to clear the mess. “All sort of problems have crept into BGSBU. The VC is also at the fag end of his career and obviously he doesn’t possess the same authority as a long term VC will have,” said Akhter. “In the given situation even we are finding it difficult to sort out the issues. But we have already taken some steps and new VC will be in the office by 15th October. You can check the progress after that.”
Akhter said that the government is in the know of state of affairs at the university and appropriate action will be taken against anybody found to have violated the rules. “Let us start with resolving scholarship scam and we will then unearth every wrongdoing that has happened there. We are not going to spare the guilty, whosoever he may be,” said Akhter.
Regarding leave controversy, Akhter said that undoubtedly Choudhary is on leave. “Who are university officials to say that he is not on forced leave? Why are they hiding it? The file is with me, he was sent on one month leave. He was asked to apply for leave,” said Akhter.
The education minister expressed ignorance over the fact that Undergraduate classes are yet to start at the university. “We had told them to start functioning after 15 days. I don’t know why only PG classes have been resumed. I will check it out and try to get it started in a week or so,” said Akhter.
BGSBU issued order to start PG classes from 12th of September but they constitute just 10 percent of the students and 90 percent of students continue to remain out of university.
According to sources the outgoing VC has called for various files and university staff has expressed the apprehension that he is trying to clear names of number of his blue eyed employees for promotion. However education minister hoped that such things won’t happen. “VC should go gracefully and it won’t be morally correct for him to take important decision at this point of time,” said Akhter. “The university will be sort of revamped after the new VC with excellent academic record takes chair.”
Dr Haseeb Mughal, SSP Rajouri who constituted the Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the scam said that the challan is likely to be presented within a week. “We have almost completed the investigation and are only waiting for the FSL reports about signatures,” said Haseeb. “Once we get the report which if everything goes well will be received this week, we will present the challan in two days.”
The police attributed the delay due to FSL laboratory. “We have just two FSL laboratories that cater to around 300 police stations. Still we got a priority letter sent to them to expedite the verification of around 1000 signatures of five to six employees,” said Haseeb.
Regarding other scams plaguing the university Haseeb said that police is strictly adhering to scholarship scam and till date has not investigated any other complaint. “Our mandate is limited to just scholarship worth around Rs 15.5 lakhs. I am not saying there are no other scandals, which students have complained about, let anybody take it but we are just working on the scholarship scam. Currently we have not been given mandate to expand our investigation into any other domain,” said Haseeb.
The latest according to students was that university has filed complaint against the student leaders spearheading the anti-corruption agitation. “We were visited by the police at our homes who took our biodata and asked us many questions. They said it is done on the orders of university,” said a student.