Gujarat Vidyapith's decision on new VC put on hold

Mahatma Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith's decision on a new VC put on hold after Centre's objection

Officials said the varsity was forced to take this 'embarrassing' decision after it received a communication from MoE last week

Mahatma Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gazal world

In what seems to be an embarrassing situation for Mahatma Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith, the Central government has compelled the varsity to "put its decision to appoint the new vice-chancellor (VC) on hold" for reportedly not following procedures in the selection process.

The development comes days after the varsity's search committee had sealed the name for the post.

The institute, which completed 100 years of existence in October, had announced Rajendra Khimani, former registrar and currently the honorary director at the institute, as the new VC to replace Anamik Shah, who is completing his second term next month.

The decision to put the appointment on "hold" was taken on Thursday following a meeting of varsity's trustees, which was convened in the "extraordinary circumstances" arose due to the objection raised by the Ministry of Education (MoE) earlier known as the Ministry of Human Resource Department.

Officials said the varsity was forced to take this "embarrassing" decision after it received a communication from MoE last week, which raised objections in the manner in which the selection committee was set up to choose the new VC. The communication has stated that the search-cum-selection committee didn't have a Central government's representative as mandated in a Memorandum of Association (MoA), February 2019.

The MoA states: "Vice-Chancellor shall be an eminent academic and shall be appointed by the Chancellor on the recommendation of a search-cum-selection committee consisting of a nominee of the government who shall be nominated in the consultation with the UGC, a nominee of the Chancellor and that of the Board of Management." However, Vidyapith "ignored" the rule by not asking the Central government's representative in the committee.

Confirming the development, Vidyapith's registrar Bharat Joshi told DH: "We have kept the decision of the selection committee on hold and have asked the MHRD (MoE) to decide its representative to be part of the committee. Once it is decided, we will see the next course of action. But for the time being, the decision (to make Khimani as new VC) has been kept on hold."

Once known for providing space to voices against the establishment, Vidyapith in recent years has ceased to be what it stood for. During the protest against the controversial citizenship law, the varsity officials allowed the police to enter the campus and detain students who had planned to stage a protest. It has also been denying its space to groups which are critical of the present government.

The campus still practices Gandhian ideas, including khadi dress code. One of the conditions for the vice-chancellor aspirants is that he or she must be a "habitual khadi-wearer." A few years ago, it bent the rule by accommodating a person who is willing to wear khadi once appointed for the office. Its students are known for spinning charkha to mark their protest.

Officials said the varsity is also in deep financial crisis as the University Grants Commission is not releasing entire funds for the past seven to eight months.