The BJP government of Madhya Pradesh has done what the BJP-appointed Governor had adroitly prevented the Congress government of Digvijaya Singh from doing — taking away the autonomy of the State’s universities. Now the universities in the State are, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Higher Education Department of the State Government.
An Amendment to the Madhya Pradesh Universities Act, 1973, approved by the Assembly in July, adds three Sub-Sections to Section 49-A, thereby empowering the State government to appoint members of the teaching staff, Class 3 and 4 employees and transfer the members of the teaching staff or non-teaching employees from one university to another university. Besides, this will be binding on all universities, the amended Sub-Section say.
Digvijaya Singh had also tried to bring the State’s universities under Government control, though, in a different and subtle way. The Amendment he had got the Assembly to pass aimed at transferring the powers of the Governor (in his capacity as Chancellor) to the State Government simply by substituting the word “Chancellor” with the “State Government”. The Sections of the Act sought to be amended were 6,10,12,13,14,15,20,24,34,48 and 52.
The effect of the amendment would that the power of the universities to create new posts of teaching were subjected to the prior approval of the State Government. Similarly, the universities would no more be able to appoint, for a specified period, to the teaching posts those who were working in other universities or institutions except with the prior approval of the State government. The State Government would, under the amended law, have the power to order an inquiry on its own into the buildings, laboratories, museums, workshops, or into the matters relating to teaching, examinations or finances of the universities — this power vested in the Chancellor.
The Governor then was Dr Bhai Mahavir, a founder-member of the Jana Sangh and one of the few upright Governors the State has had. He knew that the Governor could not refuse his assent to the Bill nor could he withhold it indefinitely but he can definitely seek certain clarifications. He devised his own method to stop this encroachment on the autonomy of the universities.
After he received the Bill for his assent, he sent it back to the Government with some queries. At the same time, he sent copies of the Bill to some eminent persons to convey to them what the Madhya Pradesh government was doing. It was apparently the protest letters received by Digvijaya Singh that dampened his zeal. His government did not pursue it.
Perhaps the harshest comment came from Justice R S Sarkaria, former judge of the Supreme Court and also chairman of the former Commission on Centre-State Relations. Calling the bill “a retrograde step”, Justice Sarkaria wrote to the Chief Minister that the universities in the states are “autonomous, statutory bodies which, as a rule, should be kept free from political influence”.
Justice Sarkaria’s communication further said: “it is well settled that the Governor’s functions while acting as Chancellor of a University do not fall within the purview of Article 163(1) of the Constitution. In other words, while discharging his functions as Chancellor of the University, he is not bound to act on the ‘aid and advice’ of his Council of Ministers”.
Governor as Chancellor
Justice Sarkaria said that the role of the Governor as Chancellor of a university was considered by the Commission on Centre-State Relations. He then quoted the relevant para from the Commission’ Report (rendered in 1987): “In relation to the exercise of executive power of a State, the word ‘Governor’ can normally be equated with the State Government. However, the office of Chancellor, even though held by the Governor under a statute in an ex-officio capacity, cannot be so equated. The former, being an officer of the University, is not obliged to seek the advice of the State Government in the matter of exercise of his functions as the appointment of Vice-Chancellor”.
The others who sent protest letters to Digvijaya Singh on this issue included Justices V R Krishna Iyer, former Judge of the Supreme Court, Soubhagyamal Jain, former Judge of Rajasthan High Court, D V Sehgal and Jeetendra Veer Gupta, former Judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and N C Kocchhar, former Judge of Delhi High Court.
Now all that has been nullified by Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government with one stroke. Wonder if Digvijaya Singh thanked him for achieving what he wanted but could not because of a Governor appointed by the BJP-led NDA government.
Congress lost the Lok Sabha elections for the first time in 1977. During the Emergency that preceded the elections, Indira Gandhi had literally abdicated her authority as Prime Minister to her younger son Sanjay Gandhi who was petulant, had little regard for law and had been dubbed as the ‘unconstitutional authority’ in the Indira Gandhi regime.
If the Congress barely mustered 44 members in Lok Sabha in 2014, the blame is put by many Congress leaders – openly by some and in hushed tones by others – on Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Here are accounts of two persons, one close to Indira Gandhi and the other to Sonia Gandhi, on how they perceived the roles of Sanjay Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
B K Nehru, ICS and an outstanding administrator and diplomat, was not only a cousin of Indira Gandhi but also her close adviser on internal and foreign affairs. Captain Amarinder Singh, now Deputy Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) and former chief minister of Punjab, has had close and prolonged association with (late) Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
I did discuss Sanjay’s doings with Rajiv. He was as discontented, disgusted and depressed with what was happening as was everybody not belonging to the small clique of Sanjay’s buddies and supporters. I asked Rajiv why his mother allowed all this to happen; he said that the fact was that she had abdicated in favour of her son. She exercised none of the powers of the Prime Minister, they had all been delegated to Sanjay. From what I myself had seen it seemed that she was operating as if she were the President and the Foreign Minister. It seemed that she did not know what was happening inside the country. Fori Nehru ( B K Nehru’s wife), not as circumspect as myself… had no hesitation in telling her (Indira Gandhi) of what she had heard in Chandigarh about the compulsory sterilisation of young boys and old men and of the discontent this was causing. To this Indira’s answer was to take her head in her hands and say ‘What am I to do? What am I to do? They tell me nothing.’
–B K Nehru in in his memoirs ‘Nice Guys Finish Second’, quoted by Natwar Singh in his autobiography ‘One Life Is Not Enough’
I tried my best at that stage to tell him (Rahul Gandhi) that do not do these elections (inner-party experiments). I spoke to the Congress president, who, too, spoke to him. But he had made up his mind that something had to be put in place and shouldn’t be interfered with. I told him pre-2012 that ‘You will divide each village, which will have its own Youth Congress, and that means it will get divided right to the top; even parents take sides in such a situation, we will have problem’. He didn’t listen and that is exactly what happened.
…She (Priyanka Gandhi) and Rahul have their own abilities and together they can make a very good team to help the Congress president. I have known them since they were children because they studied with my daughter and son. Priyanka is a very determined young lady, you saw the way she carried herself when her grandmother died and when her father died…I have never worked with Rahul because he takes care of the Youth Congress only, though he has been the vice-president for some time.
–Captain Amarinder Singh in ‘Idea Exchange’ in The Indian Express of June 15, 2014
Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People’s Republic of China and also the Chairman of that country’s Central Military Commission, was recently in India with his beautiful, folk singer wife Peng Liyuuan. As Xi was holding talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Indian leaders on wide-ranging bilateral issues, the Chinese troops were continuing their intrusions into the Ladakh area – quite an irritant in otherwise cordial atmosphere.
Back home after hoping for greater cooperation between the two countries, Xi reportedly reshuffled the country’s top brass and called on Beijing’s army chiefs to improve troops’ combat readiness so that they are able to “win a regional war.”
“The headquarters of all PLA (People’s Liberation Army) forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology,” Xi was reported to have said at a meeting with the country’s military elite. “In the face of a new national security situation and new requirements for defence preparation … [the military] must strive to build new types of command that follow party instructions and are skilled in planning combat strategies,…”
Significantly, all this was made public through China’s official Xinhua news agency.
In the late 1970’s I was (then living in Delhi) asked by the Editor of a prominent Hindi daily to write for the paper’s Sunday supplement small pieces on neighbouring countries. The idea was to educate the youngsters about the countries in our neighbourhood. The series was published under the heading: ‘Padosi Deshon Ko Jaaniye’ (know the neighbouring countries); it was later expanded to ‘Mitra Deshon Ko Jaaniye’ (know the friendly countries).
In addition to collecting material from various sources, I wrote to the embassies requesting them to send me the basic information about their respective countries, such as geographical area, population, major cities, constitution, languages, etc. I received wonderful material from most of the embassies. The only exception was the Chinese embassy which sent me a booklet of cartoons – without a single line about the country.
The Chinese are traditionally taciturn. They reach out to the media not as a routine but only as part of strategy. It is, therefore, puzzling why the Chinese leaders have made a public announcement of the discussions held at a confidential meeting of the top army brass!