Without meaningful autonomy, universities in Kerala will be reduced to the status of a government department and their degrees will not be recognised outside the state or by the University Grants Commission (UGC), Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has said. Khan, locked in a tussle with the Kerala government over autonomy of universities, asserted he is trying to save the autonomy of these institutions of higher education in the southern state.
The governor was interacting with the audience on Monday after speaking on the topic, ‘Bharat Ki Samprabhuta Aur Aaj’ (India’s sovereignty in today’s times), organised by leading Hindi daily ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ in Nagpur. Last year, the governor had said the Kerala government cannot be given the power to appoint vice-chancellors (VCs) of state universities. To a query during the Question & Answer session as to why there was no solution to the long running dispute between the Raj Bhavan and the CPI(M)-led ruling coalition over the appointment of VCs of universities, Khan said the state government was trying to encroach on the autonomy of institutions of higher learning, and he will not allow this to happen. He said disputes arise when one institution tries to encroach on the power of other bodies.
The governor has been appointed the chancellor of universities to protect their autonomy and shield them from the government’s interference in functioning, Khan said. “I am trying to save the autonomy of universities. The Supreme Court, in its decision about two months back, said all the 13 appointments of vice-chancellors were illegal. However, I have also said what kind of universities we want cannot be decided by the governor. The elected government of the day has to decide whether or not they want universities to enjoy autonomy,” he said.
Khan said he is just following the Constitution. “If they (state government) do not want it (autonomy for universities), then I cannot take that responsibility on me. But, as along as I have this responsibility (of governorship) as per the Constitution, I will try to save the autonomy of universities,” he maintained. Khan further said the SC, in its ruling, had clarified that if a person with non-academic background was involved in the selection of a VC, then that appointment will be deemed as illegal. The apex court had also said the state government has no role in the appointment of vice-chancellors, Khan pointed out. “There is no dispute after this (SC) decision. If they don’t want universities to remain autonomous, then your universities won’t be universities… they would become like a government department. Neither the UGC nor people outside the state will approve their degrees. It is as simple as that,” he said.
Earlier, speaking at the event, Khan hailed the country’s rich culture and said Indian civilisation was the only one which is known in the world for conservation of knowledge and wisdom. “Our cultural heritage can not only solve our own problems, but also show new path to the whole world,” he said. The governor said the country’s sovereignty is very valuable and “the important ideals and values of our cultural and political heritage need to be protected”. India’s resilience was evident in the fact that despite “800 years of occupation by inimical forces (jab zamana dushman tha) we were able to save your culture,” he said.
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(With Inputs from careerindia)