Who cares: Four Universities run by Caretaker Vice Chancellors in J&K

A university is usually described as the highest seat of learning and an institution of higher education and research. The description of the university itself speaks volumes about the importance of the institution in terms of academics and research.

But in J&K, the highest seat of learning seems to be least on priority with the government, given its non-seriousness and lackadaisical approach in appointing permanent Vice Chancellors for all the Universities.

There are 11 universities in J&K including two Central Universities. Out of them, four universities are run by caretaker vice chancellors for past many months, and the Vice Chancellor of the Central University Jammu as well as Kashmir have been given extension till the appointment of new VC is made by Government of India.

Meanwhile, this temporary arrangement was made to run the show in the universities till the new vice chancellors are appointed. But the move has exposed the non-seriousness of the government for not appointing permanent heads for these institutions which play a pivotal role in academics as well as in the field of research. The overall policy decisions have taken a back seat in all these four universities leaving these institutions in a kind of administrative crisis.

The cluster university Srinagar as well Jammu are run by the cater taker vice chancellors from past many months. Also, the VC post of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) Rajouri is manned by VC SMVDU as his additional charge. Similarly, the government has made an interim arrangement for VC in SKUAST-K as a temporary arrangement.

But it is also a fact that the universities run by caretaker vice chancellors are facing crises as the institutions cannot frame or approve any policy decisions because the temporary heads don’t want themselves to get involved in any of the policy decisions knowing that the chair is temporarily theirs.

Now the question is why these universities are run by caretaker vice chancellors when there is a proper system in place for appointment of a permanent vice chancellor after the three or five year term of an incumbent ends. The problem is not with the process but the delayed start of the selection process of the VC for a university.

Case of Cluster University Srinagar and Jammu is in place to cite. The government has started the process for the selection of the new Vice Chancellor for both the universities in June but the institutions continue to be run by caretaker VCs.

At first place, the higher education department ignored the statutes and laws by appointing a bureaucrat as chairman of the search committee. The committee was withdrawn because of the shortcomings attached to it. But the government wasted a week in this process. Later, a new committee was constituted which submitted the panel of candidates to the J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) who is the chancellor of the J&K Universities, on time.

But the panel of candidates and the search committee was quashed by the chancellor. The decision was taken again because of the controversies attached to the selection process. The selection is under way and a third search committee has been constituted for the purpose. In a nutshell, the government wasted five months in appointment of the vice chancellors for the cluster universities, and still the process is lingering.

Coming to the SKUAST-K and BGSBU Rajouri. The term of former VC BGSBU ended in October last week. The search committee constituted in mid-August submitted the panel of candidates to the Chancellor for his approval to the appointment of the new VC for the university in October. Two months have passed but the chancellor is yet to appoint a new VC for the university. The post of VC BGSBU is manned by VC SMVDU Katra, Ravindra Kumar Sinha as his additional charge. SMVDU and BGSBU are situated at a distance of over 150 kilometers from each other and humanly it is not possible for a single person to manage both the universities. Government needs to understand the crises in the universities run by the caretaker VC and should expedite the process for the appointment of permanent VC.

The term of former VC SKUAST-K ended in the third week of October and a search committee was constituted right in time. However, the government later delayed the issuance of notification inviting applications for the post of new VC of the university.

The notification was issued by the agriculture production and farmers’ welfare department after a delay of more than three months since the search committee was constituted by the government to recommend for appointment of a new VC for the university. Currently, the university is run by a senior professor and scientist of the university as an interim arrangement till the new VC is appointed for the varsity.

The government should avoid encouraging adhocism at university level and should take prior decisions instead of handing over the universities to care taker VCs.

Though the caretaker VC is as good as the permanent VC but no major decisions are taken during his tenure as the policy decisions are sent to the board of governors for approval for which the institution needs to have a permanent VC. The caretaker VC of the university believes that he is not the man to make policy decisions but has been given charges to run the job.

Now that the selection of new VCs for these four universities is under way, the government should expedite the process and appoint permanent VCs for these universities to overcome the crises in the functioning of the universities.

The caretaker VC takes care of routine work but the overall administrative functioning of the university takes a hit in absence of the permanent VC, which is not a good sign for any highest seat of learning. Hope the J&K administration wakes up to the issue and new VCs are appointed sooner to put an end to this adhocism.