The appointment of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) political science professor, Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit as the vice-chancellor (VC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on February 7 continues to raise doubts and queries. On Wednesday (February 9) the Maharashtra state higher and technical minister, Uday Samant asked whether the central government which appointed her VC to the prestigious JNU had taken into consideration SPPU’s vigilance report on Pandit.
The minister was referring to allegations made against Pandit when she held the additional charge of the post of director of the International Student Centre (ISC) at Pune University (UoP) between 2002-2007. An inquiry committee instituted by UoP’s VC Narendra Jadhav reported that Pandit admitted ineligible Indian students using the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) quota.
Under the PIO quota, only 15 percent of additional seats are reserved for foreign students whose parents or grandparents were Indian citizens. However, between 2002 and 2007 over 1800 Indian students were given admissions to various professional courses using the PIO seats.
The said students had secured scores as low as 50-60 percent in the higher secondary state board exams. ISC employees apparently received monetary benefits from Pandit for facilitating these admissions, stated a news report that appeared in the DNA (August 5, 2011).
The varsity received complaints against her in 2008 after which all complaints were scrutinised by a committee headed by Sunanda Pawar. Another committee led by Justice JA Patil held Pandit guilty of not following rules prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) while granting admissions to PIOs. The only action taken against her was stopping five increments she was eligible for. The withholding came into effect from July 2011 and another two from July 2017. Pandit of course has denied the charges against her.
Speaking to media persons on Wednesday, minister Uday Samant said it was a matter of pride that a professor from Maharashtra was appointed as the first female VC of the prestigious JNU. However, he had made inquiries about the allegations against Pandit and was informed that SPPU authorities had submitted a vigilance report to the Ministry of Education.
The report stated that Pandit’s increments had been withheld for alleged misconduct. The minister said an inquiry should be conducted to know if the allegations were made with the intention of defaming her. “The Union ministry should now explain its position and clear the doubts in the minds of the people,” said Samant.
Pandit was recommended for the post by a three-member search-cum-selection committee which had National Board of Accreditation chairperson, Prof. K.K Aggarwal, retired IAS officer Yogendra Narain and academician Ashok Modak.
Pandit, who succeeds JNU’s M Jagadesh Kumar who moved to UGC as its chairperson, is an JNU alumna herself. Her appointment created a social media outrage as screenshots of tweets from an unverified Twitter handle in her name surfaced. While the twitter account was soon deactivated, Pandit has claimed the tweets espousing extreme right-wing ideology are a “conspiracy” against her. In her statement after her appointment, she said JNU would strive to implement the new National education Policy and the focus would be on “constructing Indo-centric narratives.”National, News