M Jagadesh Kumar, the vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who has been strongly resisting a complete rollback of the hostel fee despite months of protest by students, may not be really leading by example.
According to a report by The Telegraph, the vice-chancellor has been occupying two official houses for the past four years even though government rules allow an employee to occupy one residence at a time.
The report says even though Kumar was allotted a house in the JNU campus after taking charge as the vice-chancellor, he has not vacated the quarters he was provided at IIT Delhi where he works as a professor of electrical engineering with specialisation in nano-electronics. Kumar is on lien from IIT Delhi and will join his duties after the completion of his term as V-C at JNU.
Although Kumar’s retention of the IIT house is based on an earlier rule that allowed professions going on lien or deputation as vice-chancellors of central universities or directors of IITs to hold their quarters for up to five years, IIT Delhi amended the rule in 2017, bringing down the buffer time to one year.
However, Kumar has been exempted from the new rule on the ground that his retention of quarters predated the new norm, the article states.
Quoting a senior IIT Delhi official, the report says many professors on lien were exempted from the new amended policy, after they argued that some of them still had to leave their family behind in the old quarters as they have to rejoin duty after the completion of their lien and that they would not have accepted the new appointment if they knew they have to leave their old house.
According to the report IIT Delhi has just a little more than 300 quarters as against its teacher strength of 500. To address the accommodation crunch, the institute has arranged an additional 10 residences in the Hauz Khas area for some teachers. Teachers who still await official houses have to search for accommodation outside the campus.
A JNU professor that the article quoted said that professors on lien have to pay a nominal monthly rent of ₹1,200 while the market rate of these houses is around ₹90,000 per month.
Kumar’s retention of the house, which could have been easily allotted to one such waitlisted teacher, has been criticised by many in the academic community.
“It’s a matter of ethics. A vice-chancellor or a teacher is a role model for the students. A good administrator practises ethics first and then expects the same behaviour from others,” the article quoted Rajeev Kumar, a professor at JNU’ School of Computer and System Sciences as saying.
An official of the human resource development ministry that the report quotes stated that a teacher’s lengthy retention of two houses is a loss for the exchequer.
IIT Delhi pays a house rent allowance to teachers whom it cannot provide with quarters. Its inability to allot Kumar’s old quarters to another teacher has inflated its house rent allowance bill, it report says.
The rule however sharply contrasts with Kumar’s stubborn pitch to increase the hostel fee at JNU against which students have been protesting for the past few months.
While the hostel fee hike was partially rolled back, students have blamed Kumar for opposing a complete rollback even if the government is ready to effect it.