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Panjab Univ a pale shadow of its former glory.

RECENTLY, one of the premier institutions in the country -- Panjab University in Chandigarh -- shot into the headlines for the wrong reasons. The head of Dr H S Judge Institute of Dental Sciences on its campus sought repatriation after protests against him over the " harassment" of a female intern. In a similar incident, chairman of the University Business School ( UBS) had to apologise for truce to the girls who were upset with him over his alleged misbehavior.

Amid the politics over both the issues and other frequently erupting controversies, several academicians and alumni have started lamenting over the state of affairs on the university campus -- which inherits its existence from Panjab University set up in Lahore in 1882.

The old timers at the university -- which produced some of the most distinguished personalities including the Nobel laureate and biotechnologist Har Gobind Khorana, NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla and prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Inder Kumar Gujral -- believe that the university has failed to live up to its legacy over the years.

Though the university has undoubtedly, made progress in some fields in the past few years, the controversies -- including some serious ones -- have given it a bad name. Appointments for administrative, teaching and non- teaching posts have often attracted criticism from different quarters. In some cases, whistleblowers highlighted alleged irregularities and the university had to make amends.

The university had fixed interviews to fill up a few major administrative posts about six months ago. A few " probable" candidates --" unqualified" to hold the posts -- were also called to appear before the interview board. A controversy erupted and the authorities decided against selecting anyone for the advertised vacancies. The university said that the posts were kept vacant since no candidate was found suitable.

However, later some of the same " probable" candidates got the additional charge of those posts along with the benefits associated with the chairs. In another instance, the selection of three candidates for the posts of assistant registrar was approved by the syndicate -- one of the university's decision making bodies.

Soon after the selection, the eligibility of two selected candidates was questioned and the syndicate diffused controversy by quashing the selections.

Some arbitrary decisions against the stipulated norms have also spelt trouble for the students. The future of about two dozen students continues to hang in balance after the university awarded degrees to them though their course was not recognised by National Council for Teacher Education ( NCTE).

The university syndicate and senate had also not permitted the authorities to release the Bachelor of Physical Education ( BPEd) degrees to students.

PU's well wishers rue that such irregularities and the subsequent cover- ups are the norm in the institution. In 2005, MBA students at UBS were shocked to find photo copies of a handwritten question paper at an examination.

It surfaced that the question paper had the writing of a UBS teacher while the university record showed that the paper was set by an external examiner.

Two inquiries -- including one by a retired high court judge -- have been completed in the matter.

But, the vice- chancellor of PU, R C Sobti, denies all such accusations.

According to Sobti, the university has been functioning in a smooth and democratic manner and in line with the legal provisions.

He claims that he seeks the legally correct solution for every problem. The university has a syndicate and an 89 member senate to ensure its smooth functioning. He also asserts that the university rectifies the fault when any discrepancy is detected in any process.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 16, 2011
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