by Naved Ashrafi
November 27, 2017
Aligarh Muslim University
Aligarh- 202 002 U.P.
Subject: On Ph.D. admissions, dharnas, delays and inefficiency.
This is very gruesome and awful seeing academic affairs in our campus moving with snail’s pace; that too on a redundant and erratic trajectory. In this letter I wish to share my serious concerns with you over dharnas, protests and sundry other issues that plague the academic aura of the University.
Undoubtedly, dharnas are sign of vibrant democracy but if they remain unattended and un-addressed for long, due to over-bureaucratisation, by the authorities, they promote despondency among citizens who are the only clients in the democratic system. Dharnas and memorandums are like feedback loops of democracy as we find very much in human body controlling the homeostasis. For a better system, they should be rationally attended in a trice as our body does.
Recently, a twenty five days old dharna was ended by the university administration allegedly by using police force. The protesting [student] candidates, who sat at the Bab-e-Syed, were demanding transparency in Ph.D. admissions. Almost concomitantly with the ending of that dharna, another dharna is being staged at the entrance of the registrar’s office. On dharna, students are now observing relay hunger strike. These candidates have written to you with three demands viz.
1. Ph.D. intake in each department should be declared as per the current UGC guidelines, the same guidelines according to which the Ph.D. entrance paper was set and the entrance examination was held. The guidelines envisage (vide Clause 6.5) that Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor can guide simultaneously up to Eight, Six and Four scholars in Ph.D. and Three, Two and One scholar in M.Phil respectively. Protesting students hold an opinion that UGC guidelines are partially followed by the university and the directions given under Clause 6.5 are grossly misinterpreted by the prudent faculty members and administration of the university. As far as I think, protesting students have valid point and their point becomes stronger when we know that in Aligarh Muslim University we have no M.Phil. course in research. This means that in AMU, faculty members, if UGC guidelines are properly followed, will have three, two, and one scholars less than what the guidelines envisage.
2. Secondly, they put grievance that pertains to the ‘idiopathic’ (as I should call it) and alleged reservation of one-third seats for the next session. This is again against the UGC guidelines, they opine.
3. Thirdly, they demand that the exact number of Ph.D. theses submitted from July 2017 hitherto, be made public so that the vacancies created by the dint of such submissions are made clear.
As far as these demands of protesting students are concerned, these are rational, valid and innocent. In making such demands, I think, there should have been no dharna or protest. A single page application typed in MS Word document and after getting it printed at the cost of 75 Paisa at the Purani Chungi, must have been conveyed to the Controller or the Pro Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor of the University. And after receiving the application, a quick perusal of the scenario must have been pursued by the authorities. But what exactly followed with the staging of dharna is quite bewildering. Let me quote Allama Iqbal here:
Zara Si Baat Thi, Andaisha-e-Ajam Ne Ise
Barha Diya Hai Faqat Zaib-e-Dastan Ke Liye
Sir, I remember that at the inception of the current session few students, along with former AMUSU President Mr. Faizul Hasan, met you requesting that the Ph.D. admission test must be held as per UGC guidelines and when they complained that the pattern of question paper was set by the honorable Deans/Chairpersons as per their own volition, your response for them was very balmy and soothing. You assured them that entrance paper would be set as per the UGC guidelines. The issue was resolved in about 35 minutes with no dharna, protest, memorandum etc.
But when things are procrastinated deliberately or unknowingly, they, according to the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, make inroads to the corruption. Politically motivated and vested interests start capitalising upon the issues that are not addressed sincerely in time. This certainly compromises the efficiency of the system.
I also remember your maiden interview in The Indian Express (Click Here) after being appointed to the glorious office of the Vice-Chancellor of AMU. First question was asked by the journalist about ‘your priorities’. You replied unequivocally to ‘enhance the research output’. In questions that followed, you promised for a ‘student-friendly environment’ on the campus, and ‘no harassment of entire student community at the cost of few lumpen elements’. You also indicated that you recognize the potential trouble-makers, for you had been in the campus since long. I have no doubt over your sincerity and dedication towards the research in AMU. You postponed the Students Union elections just to ensure that research scholars would be a part of democratic process once they are admitted in the research program. [Let me confess that I criticized your very decision on social media and that was in a different context that I put my healthy criticism there.]
Sir, let me convey my request to you that do not let the above matter be made a “question of honour” by anybody in the university. As far as the point of “honour” is concerned, this must be retained with the Constitution of India and the democratic processes. Let the Khaap like mindset not cripple our beloved institution and its processes. I am saying this because I witnessed similar attitudes in bygone years in a case of one student named Mohd. Salman [and his friends] who was denied admission in Ph.D. in the Department of Arabic, AMU (see Enclosure 1 (Click Here)). I think, after being selected to final list, Salman’s ‘right’ to admission, was sacrificed at the altar of ‘honour’ by the dean, chairman and controller! Fortunately, Mohd. Salman was a bright student, qualified UGC-NET in Arabic and joined M.Phil. in the University of Delhi. He is slated for submission of his dissertation very soon. He is my good friend and we both edited Golden Jubilee edition of MM Hall Magazine in 2014.
Apart from these, I also came to know about the administrative apprehensions regarding the increment in seats vis-à-vis as happened in HNB Garhwal University. There is a stark difference between the two cases. Students at AMU are demanding that they must be ensured justice as per the UGC guidelines. So, AMU administration must not fear in ‘ensuring justice’.
Lastly, I wish to put my own genuine concern. In the current era of IT and RTI, AMU should not hide the things and affairs. And there should be a pan-university transparency in affairs. For instance, in spite of having precedence of (1) allowing candidates to take away question paper booklet with them after examination is over, (2) timely depicting the scores of candidates separately of objective, subjective and interview exams on notice board of the departments, this year things have been put under the dark. And I am not hesitant in stating that this increases the problems only of the administration, chairpersons, deans, controller and their staff! Students are not affected by these prosaic attitudes. When things are not put in open, very often, rank and files are also nudged by the hidden hands—political or otherwise. After 2005, when AMU has fairly transparent history in RTI regimes, why are we become so shy and haunted!
I request you to kindly pay your special attention towards these genuine issues. There are greater responsibilities for us to shoulder on in future. Our institution and our nation badly need us. Let’s shun and solve now these paltry issues with ultimate dexterity, vigour, enthusiasm and pride.
Nigah Buland, Sukhan Dil Nawaz, Jaan Pursouz
Yehi Hai Rakht-e-Safar Meer-e-Karwan Ke Liye