Dubbing the Odisha University (Amendment) Bill as “draconian and regressive”, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has once again sought the Centre’s intervention to repeal it to ensure “autonomy” of higher education institutes in the state. The Bill also contradicts the NEP 2020, he said in a letter to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. Mr Pradhan, who had opposed the Bill and also drawn the attention of Pokhriyal to it last month, said the “anomalous” promulgation of the measure has met with near-universal criticism from all quarters of Odisha’s academic community.
Amid protests by the opposition BJP and the Congress, the Odisha Assembly on Tuesday passed the Bill which seeks to abolish senates in universities and restructure syndicates, by amending the law governing public universities in the state. “The Bill seeks to strip away the autonomy of higher educational institutions in Odisha by bureaucratising critical aspects of the functioning of universities and crippling autonomy with the intent of exercising state government’s complete dominance,” the senior BJP leader said in his letter.
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Its “pernicious provisions” to replace senates in universities with the state-controlled syndicate and “manipulate the appointment of Vice Chancellors” by inducting a government-appointed nominee in the search committees are cause for grave concern, he said. The Bill also seeks to “unethically bypass the constitutional scrutiny and debates on the utilisation of public funds by withdrawing the tabling of University Audit Report in the state Assembly”, he said.
“This measure has not only been called out for being draconian, regressive and incongruous with higher education reforms anywhere in India but also grossly undermines the basic principles of public accountability,” Mr Pradhan said. A strong and unanimous view has emerged that the Bill should not have been promulgated without prior instructions of the President as per article 213 of the Constitution, Mr Pradhan said.
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“Even if the bill is passed by the House, it has to be reserved for consideration and assent of the President of India under Article 254(2) of the Constitution,” the minister said. “Keeping in mind the welfare of students, scholar, faculty and staff, the autonomy of higher educational institutions and the overall well-being of the higher education ecosystem in Odisha and factoring in the blatant inconsistencies of Odisha University Amendment Bill, 2020 with the Constitution of India, I seek your urgent personal intervention in taking necessary action to repeal the Bill,” Mr Pradhan said.
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