Money Talks

Professor Amartya Sen has been constrained to come out openly against the unwarranted intervention by the ruling elites in matters of education. On 19 August, a letter published under the 'Letters to the Editor' column of a leading English daily provided quite a few examples of such intervention. One striking instance is the appointment of one Gajendra Chauhan as President Chair of the Governing Council of the Film and Television Institute of India. From his reported qualifications, it is clear that his principal qualification is that he is a saffron loyalist. The appointment triggered off controversies and protests, leading to cruel lathi-charge on and arrest of aggrieved students. A second example, no less glaring, is the appointment of one Sudarshan Rao as Head of the Indian Council of Historical Research. The name of this 'historian' is little known, but in an article written some time ago, he glorified the Indian caste system. Narendra Modi's worship of Ambedkar would appear entirely fraudulent in the light of such appointments, because Ambedkar was a tireless fighter against this caste system. One may also look at what, eminent scientists and scholars like P C Roy, Meghnad Saha and Debiprasad Chattopadhyay wrote on the harmful effects of the caste system on the Indian society.

In West Bengal, what is witnessed is not well-directed control of production of knowledge, but control of appointments by a directionless party riddled with self-contradictions. The scenario was succinctly described by Professor Sugata Marjit in the wake of his appointment as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. Professor Marjit was candid in his admission that he owed his post to the fact of his being a person in the good grace of the Government of West Bengal. The Education Minister Mr Partha Chatterjee (not to be confused with the renowned political scientist Partha Chatterjee) has however declared aloud, "Since I give the money, I have every right to intervene". Partha Chatterjee forgot that the money came neither from his zamindari, nor from the ruling party's fund; it was essentially public money. Such interference, it may be noted, ignited the flame of students’ agitation at Jadavpur University. The ongoing movement at the Presidency University is also largely a reaction to this interference, although the mode of conducting the movement is not perhaps above criticism.

This type of control of appointments was not, however, unknown during the Left Front era. Ever since the early eighties of the last century, loyalty to the principal ruling party was considered a plus point as far as educational appointments were concerned. It is an irony that many beneficiaries, including quite a few principals, who had got their appointments owing to their being CPI(M) loyalists, promptly changed sides after the regime change in West Bengal. Ratting is a profitable business.

In the second part of his article, ‘The Sense of Commitment’ (Frontier, March 15-21) professor Partha Chatterjee wrote that as far as his experience went, such interventions and interferences were ubiquitous phenomena in India as a whole, and in some cases, the situation was more frightening than in West Bengal. Chatterjee blamed the teaching community for this state of affairs. While the spinelessness and opportunism of the teaching community is a reality, this community cannot perhaps be much blamed for the growing saffronization and concomitant distortions that are now replacing truth with falsehood.

Vol. 48, No. 9, Sep 6 - 12, 2015