Government clarifies after Nalanda University Chancellor’s resignation

New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) After Nalanda University Chancellor George Yeo resigned last week citing unhappiness over a new governing board being formed without his knowledge, the government on Thursday clarified that the new board has been formed in accordance with the provisions of the Nalanda University Act.

“As you know, a proposal for revival of the Nalanda University was initiated by the government in 2007 and the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) was formed for taking forward the proposal,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing here.

“Subsequently, the Nalanda University Act 2010 was passed by the Parliament and came into force in November of that year,” he said.

“Initially, the NMG, formed in 2007 was meant to discharge the functions of the governing board, pending formation of a proper governing board according to the provisions of the Act. As the Mentor Group had been functioning for nine years and the Act provided for three-year tenure for members, it was decided to constitute the board in accordance with the Nalanda Act. The last time the Mentor Group’s tenure was extended was on November 25, 2013, making it three years since then.”

Swarup said that on November 21 this year, President Pranab Mukherjee, in his capacity as the Visitor of the Nalanda University, approved the constitution of the governing board of the university in accordance with Section 7 of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.

“Let me emphasise that this the first time since the Act was passed that a governing board has been properly constituted as per its provisions,” he stated.

Yeo had said in a statement following his resignation that the order dissolving the governing board and creating a new one came as a complete surprise to him and to most others.

He said he was neither involved nor consulted before the decision was taken.

A former Foreign Minister of Singapore, Yeo replaced Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as the Chancellor of the University last year.

“When I was appointed Chancellor in July 2015, I was told that a new governing board would be formed under an amended Act, core aspects of which the Ministry of External Affairs sought my views on,” he said.

“The amended Act would have removed a major flaw in the current Act which in essence offers governing board seats to East Asian Summit countries making the highest financial contributions in the last three years.

“This provision, which was never recommended by the NMG, would not have been a good way to constitute the governing board and was the reason the (Indian) government requested the NMG to continue functioning as the governing board for a number of years until the Act could be amended.”

Yeo said it was a sudden decision that was disturbing and harmful to the Nalanda University’s development.

“When I was invited to take over the responsibility from Amartya Sen last year, I was repeatedly assured that the university would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now.

“Accordingly, and with deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation as Chancellor to the Visitor,” President Pranab Mukherjee, he said.

Swarup said on Thursday that President Mukherjee has also approved that upon completion of the extended term of the current Vice Chancellor, which expires on November 24, 2016, and in the absence of a new Vice Chancellor being appointed on or before November 25, 2016, the senior-most Dean may be temporarily appointed to discharge the duties of the Vice Chancellor until a new Vice Chancellor is appointed.

“We have a great respect for George Yeo, and for his contributions to Nalanda University,” the spokesperson said.

“However, these decisions were taken so that for the first time, the university would be in full compliance with the legal regime under which it was created.”

Asked about Yeo’s complaint that the university has not been given the autonomy as it was promised, Swarup said: “What the President has done is to bring the functioning of the Nalanda University in compliance with the Nalanda University Act of 2010. This is the very first time that a governing board has been constituted as provided for in the Act.”

Located in the Buddhist pilgrim town of Rajgir in Nalanda district, the university began its first academic session in September 2014 on a makeshift campus.

–IANS

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