Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel Dharmendra Pradhan has written a second letter to his Cabinet colleague, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, opposing the Odisha Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which was recently passed by the Odisha Assembly despite protests from the opposition.
“As I had mentioned in my earlier letter, Government of Odisha’s hasty, unprecedented and anomalous promulgation of the Odisha University Amendment Bill, 2020, has met with near-universal criticism from all quarters of Odisha’s academic community. This fiat legislation is in complete contradiction to Honble PM’s visionary National Education Policy 2020. The Bill seeks to strip away the autonomy of higher educational institutions in Odisha by bureaucratizing critical aspects of functioning of universities and crippling its autonomy with the intent of exercising State Government’s complete dominance,” Pradhan has written.
He has also pointed out “pernicious provisions for replacing University’s apex Senate body with the State-controlled Syndicate, manipulating the appointment or its University Vice-Chancellor by inserting a State Government appointed nominee in the Search Committee and limiting candidature of this committee to non-academic candidates are cause for grave concern.”
The Bill seeks to unethically bypass the Constitutional scrutiny and debates on utilization of public funds by withdrawing the tabling of University Audit Report in the State Assembly.
This measure, called out for being “draconian, regressive and incongruous with higher education reforms anywhere in India”, also grossly undermines the “basic principles of public accountability,” says Pradhan.
“As for its legality or lack thereof, the impugned Bill has been passed by the State Legislature under entry 25 of the Concurrent List to the 7th schedule of the Constitution of India. This entry is subject to entry 66 of the Union list, under which the Parliament of India has exclusive powers to make laws in relation to coordination and determination or standards in institutions for higher education or research. Therefore, guidelines and regulations issued under the UGC Act, 1956 and Universities in Odisha recognized by the UGC under section 12 (b) of the UGC Act, 1956 are bound by the extant UGC provisions. The ‘outsourcing’ of University appointments promulgated under the Odisha University Amendment Bill, 2020, is in blatant violation of guidelines pertaining to appointment and coordination for appointments under Section 26 of UGC Act, 1956,” Pradhan states.