State-run universities in West Bengal are yet to comply with a Raj Bhavan directive amid indications of the honeymoon between the state government and Governor CV Ananda Bose coming to an end.
The trigger for the sudden deterioration in the relationship between the Governor and the Mamata Banerjee-led state government was a communique from the former to vice-chancellors of all the 31 state universities on April 4, asking them to send him a weekly activity report on the last working day of every week.
The state government has seen the communique as an infringement on its jurisdiction.
The 2019 rule
The West Bengal government in 2019 framed a rule according to which all communications between the chancellor (governor) and the VCs should be routed through the education department.
The rule was enacted to curtail the power of the governor as chancellor following an acrimonious relationship between then Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the Trinamool Congress government.
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Citing that 2019 rules, VCs have been hesitant to send the report directly to the governor.
“My report is ready. I can submit it whenever the government wants me to place it. The 2019 rule that defines terms and services of the VCs bars us from sending the report directly to the chancellor,” said a vice-chancellor, who refused to be named, as he did not want to be drawn into the “conflict” between Raj Bhavan and the education department.
Another VC The Federal spoke to said calling for a weekly report was unnecessary as universities prepare a detailed annual report, which is accessible to the chancellor.
He said it would only create a fresh controversy involving the governor and the state government, which has taken a serious note of the Raj Bhavan communique.
CM as chancellor?
The education department is seeking a legal course of action against the governor’s move and has decided to revive its earlier decision to replace the governor with the chief minister as the chancellor of state-run universities.
Education minister Bratya Basu revealed the government’s plan when, on Friday (April 14), he said the governor should pave the way for clearance of the Bill that sought to make the chief minister the VC of the state universities in place of the governor.
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“If the governor does not sign the Bill, he must return it so that we can get it passed by the Assembly again,” Basu said.
The Bill was introduced last year when Dhankhar, as governor of West Bengal, was functioning as the ex-officio chancellor of the universities. The then governor was sitting on the Bill passed by the Assembly.
Govt’s change of stand
After Bose took over as governor in November last year, the state government had decided to go slow on the issue of removing the governor from the post of chancellor.
Basu’s latest remark, however, was indicative of the state government’s change of stand. More so, as the education department reportedly sought advice from the law department on the governor’s move to directly communicate with the universities “bypassing” the education department.
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The Governor in the past week also visited a few universities to preside over meetings of their decision-making bodies allegedly by keeping the state government in the dark.
Bose has, however, refused to react to Basu’s barbs.