PATNA: The Bihar Raj Bhavan has written to the state government to take corrective measures in the education department after a delegation of 25 members of the Legislative Council, cutting across party lines, told Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar that the department through its actions “seems to be bent upon destroying the academic environment in the state”.
“The MLCs have unanimously condemned and expressed protest against the orders of the education department, as they perceive them to be unconstitutional, autocratic and violation of the privileges granted to them under Arricle 194 of the Constirurion. They have appealed to the Governor for cancellation of the letters and action against the officials concerned,” said the Raj Bhavan’s letter on Tuesday signed by Robert L Chongthu, principal secretary to the Governor, and addressed to Bihar chief secretary Aamir Subhani. It also enclosed the joint memorandum of the MLCs. The chief secretary promptly forwarded the letter to the education department on Wednesday.
Twenty-five MLCs from different political parties, including the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had met the Governor and raised objections to education department’s orders stopping salary and pension of teachers, gagging associations and asking outsourcing of teachers in colleges and universities and purchase of specific equipment form specific companies, appointing specific companies for housekeeping etc.
They said that deliberate attempts for confrontation was being made ever since additional chief secretary KK Pathak joined the department.The said even education minister Chandrashekhar was helpless and a mute spectator of the goings on despite himself being a teacher.
This is, however, not the first time the education department has been in the eye of a storm. Earlier, the department was involved in a direct confrontation with the Raj Bhavan when it issued separate advertisements for the appointment of vice chancellors while the process under the one issued by the chancellor’s secretariat was already on. Chief minister Nitish Kumar had to intervene to get the advertisements of the department withdrawn.
There was another flare up after education department secretary Baidyanath Yadav directly wrote to all vice chancellors, laying down a set of dos and don’ts to ensure quality education, including their attendance in office every day and prior information to the department in case of leave or need to leave headquarters. This happened in the wake of Raj Bhavan directing the VCs on August 30 that the “Chancellor’s authority is supreme in the matter of running the academic and administrative affairs of the universities and no outside influence should be entertained”.
Arlekar also expressed his anguish before the CM at a Patna University function later on. “How could a secretary of the education department have the audacity to question the authority of the chancellor and autonomy of the universities. If an officer can act like this with the chancellor, one can well imagine the treatment meted out to VCs and teachers. Such things are unheard of,” he had said.
The showdown was similar to the one witnessed in 2009 when late Devanand Konwar was the governor and the present ACS (education) was the then secretary (Human Resource development), and the government had withdrawn most orders later on. Arlekar’s office had also circulated Konwar’s 2009 order to all the VCs.
The education department also witnessed a letter war a few months ago between the education minister’s office and the office of the officer. The minister’s personal secretary had written that the “minister is angry over a lot of negative news related to the department and attempt to shake the Robinhood image of an individual officer”. The officer reacted by banning entry of the minister’s PA to the officer, branding him “an outsider”.
The matter escalated so much that the minister had to meet the CM, who tried to bring truce in the key department. Later, the minister stopped going to his office for nearly a month. He has maintained silence over the last few months on the issue despite his department being consistently in the news.