Saturday, February 25, 2012

Government's dilemma over UGC chief selection

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is in a dilemma on how to deal with the piquant situation that has arisen due to the ‘arbitrary' recommendation of the search and selection committee for the appointment of a full time chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The three-member selection group of experts — Madhav Menon, Goverdhan Mehta and K Srinath Reddy — had earlier in the week forwarded a two-member panel for the prestigious position, once held by PM Manmohan Singh. The two panelists are former vice chancellor of Hyderabad University Seyed E Hasnain and director of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B) Pankaj Chandra. The two were picked up from a larger panel of five.

Normally, any selection committee picks a panel of three to enable the government to make the final selection. But in this case, the search committee deliberately or inadvertently presented a fait accompli to the government and forced it to consider only a single name — that of Chandra. The ministry will find it difficult to send the other name to the department of personnel for the process to be completed as there is a vigilance inquiry pending against Hasnain and he cannot be considered till he is cleared.

In other words, the panel has given no room for the government to consider anyone else for the post. If this happens, charges of manipulation are certainly going to be made especially because Chandra's name was not among the 80 nominations received in response to the public advertisement but was added in the final stage apparently by a panel member as “prerogative'” of the committee.

The other point being discussed is how the selection panel could not find a third name knowing that nominating a single name could lead to scrapping of the panel as HRD minister Kapil Sibal will be the first one to see the adverse legal implications of such a selection. Second, the PM will also want the process to be transparent. Third, Chandra's selection, which is inevitable, will also mean that the UGC will be headed by someone who is not from the university system but from the IIMs, which only awards diplomas and not degrees.

The committee, which took an year to decide, has finally come out with a panel, making the government's task difficult. The search for the chairman began in the light of the unpredictable status of the proposed higher education research bill towards establishing the National Commission on Higher Education Research (NCHER). The ministry's view could not be ascertained as top officials were unavailable for comment.

Source: Hindustan Times, February 25, 2012

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