On maiden visit to CU, no senior staff present to receive Bengal guv Dhankhar

The acrimonious relationship between West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government turned worse on Wednesday when the latter visited Calcutta University (CU) for the first time only to find no senior functionary present to receive him.

“You will not see this in any university in the world. I am the chancellor of this university and nobody is there to receive me. The room of the vice chancellor is locked. Education should be kept out of politics,” said a visibly aggrieved Dhankhar.

Some members of the staff opened the room of the VC, Sonali Chakraborty Bandopadhyay, and the governor took his seat before taking a tour of the library.

The incident sent ripples in CU and political circles since a governor of the state is also the chancellor of all universities (except Visva Bharati in Shantiniketan) by default. Wednesday’s incident is unprecedented, CU professors said.

“He (Dhankhar) is visiting universities because he wants to enforce the national education policy in Bengal. He will not succeed. He has to first acquaint himself with the soil of Bengal,” said education minister and TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee. “Ever since he came to Bengal the governor has been behaving like a political person,” added junior health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya.

Wednesday’s incident is being viewed as a fallout of Dhankhar’s decision to preside over the meeting of the CU Senate, the highest policy making body of the university. The meeting, which was supposed to be held in Wednesday, was called off on Tuesday and the registrar, Debasish Das, sent a message to Raj Bhawan. Following this, Dhankhar wished to meet the VC but he was informed that the education department does not want the VC to hold any meeting with the governor.

“Why is the VC and other officials so afraid of calling a meeting of the Senate just because the chancellor is supposed to attend it? Why are they scared of meeting the chancellor? Are they scared that all illegal activities will get exposed? The entire country will laugh at us after this,” said Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator and leader of the Left parties in the assembly, Sujan Chakraborty.

“The Chancellor’s visit to the university is not a regular phenomenon. Whatever may be the context of his visit that there was not a single university official to receive him and extend civil courtesy goes against the heritage of this great institution and harms its dignity. The Chancellor of the university is the most honourable persona of the institution and today’s incident is absolutely undesirable and shameful,” said the Calcutta University Teachers’ Association in a statement.

In a statement, Raj Bhawan said on Wednesday evening that on November 28, CU requested Dhankhar to preside over the Senate meeting but on Tuesday a communication from CU said that due to “unavoidable reasons” the meeting would not be taking place. After this the governor informed the VC that he would be visiting CU to interact with the faculty, the staff, employees and students and visit the library to “familiarise with the university,” said the Raj Bhawan statement.

Neither the VC nor the registrar could be contacted on Wednesday despite several attempts. The Raj Bhawan statement said that during his visit to CU the governor “lamented that such kind of incidents are indicative of governmental remote control over the universities and that is not good for the health of the universities.”

In a parallel development, Dhankhar said on Wednesday that he would visit the state Assembly on Thursday. For TMC this posed a challenge since the speaker,Biman Banerjee, on Tuesday adjourned the ongoing session for the next two days, saying it was being done since the governor did not give his nod to the Bills that were supposed to be placed in the House in these two days.

Dhankhar reacted after this. “The situation projected is factually untenable. There has been no delay in handling the legislative work in the Raj Bhavan. Highest priority is accorded. However, all issues are thoroughly gone into after due briefing from the department,” said a statement issued by Raj Bhawan on Tuesday.

“There is no delay whatsoever at the end of the governor in dealing with legislative work and if issues there on are pending, it is on account of lack of input or response from the concerned in the respective departments,” said the statement.

The statement mentioned five Bills, including the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, that were sent to Raj Bhawan. The statement said that the governor sought for complete official report of the debates on this Bill and the matter received attention of the Governor on Dec 1 as November 30 was a holiday. “The entire delay is fully attributable to the Assembly not making the proceedings available,” the statement said.

Asked about the governor’s proposed visit to the Assembly, minister of state for parliament affairs Tapas Roy said, ‘I would not like to comment.”

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