The inside story of why Delhi University VC Yogesh K Tyagi was suspended

While suspending Tyagi, the Ministry of Education stated that Tyagi lacked commitment and failed to perform his duties as the VC and that included leaving several key posts vacant

Former Delhi University Vice Chancellor Yogesh K Tyagi
Former Delhi University Vice Chancellor Yogesh K Tyagi
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Ashlin Mathew

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi, Professor Yogesh K Tyagi was suspended on President Ram Nath Kovind’s orders on Wednesday amidst a power tussle between two BJP-leaning groups over appointments. The Union Ministry of Education had requested the President to permit an enquiry into Tyagi, who has been accused of misconduct and dereliction of duty.

The power struggle between the two groups had been simmering for a few weeks, but reached a crescendo last week. All of this comes at a time when promotions and appointments are due, and admissions are being processed. Tyagi was appointed in March 2016 with the approval of the then Ministry of Human Resource Development under Prakash Javadekar.

Tyagi has been on medical leave since July as he had to have an emergency surgery at AIIMS. He has been on leave since then. Professor PC Joshi was appointed the acting pro-Vice Chancellor on July 17 by the government and would continue until Tyagi returned to work. The post had been vacant since June 2016. According to University Grants Commission guidelines, the pro-VC is to assist the VC and perform the VC’s duties in his absence. He can continue in office even if the VC’s term expires or is removed until the appointment of the new VC.

Escalation of power struggle

The controversy erupted just before the meeting of the executive council after six months on October 21. At the meeting, the executive council was supposed to decide on appointing a permanent registrar and a finance officer.

Just before the council meeting, Tyagi, who was still on medical leave, removed the acting registrar and acting director of South Campus, Professor Suman Kundu, and appointed Professor PC Jha as the university registrar. Despite Tyagi’s announcement, the EC met as scheduled and appointed Vikash Gupta as the registrar and Girish Ranjan as regular finance officer. This irked both Tyagi and Jha, who took over the registrar’s office.

To counter Joshi, Tyagi appointed Geeta Bhatt, associate professor at Dwarka-based Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences, on October 22, as the pro-VC. She issued orders revoking appointments made by Joshi. So, on Thursday, October 22, the Delhi University had two pro-VCs and two registrars. The row escalated when Jha wrote a letter to the ministry citing himself as "acting registrar" and stated that all decisions taken by Tyagi were in accordance with the UGC norms.

Both Jha and Bhatt are members of National Democratic Teachers’ Front, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed teachers’ organisation. NDTF had opposed the induction of a chapter on Godhra riots in the English Department's syllabus and demanded several other changes in syllabi of Political Sciences, History and Sociology textbooks. Geeta Bhatt is the RSS spokesperson on television channel debates, while Joshi is known to be close to the Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal as both are from the same state.

“This is a power struggle between two factions associated with the BJP. Both Jha and Bhatt are associated with NDTF and Joshi is being backed by the government, which is why Tyagi was suspended. This struggle has been going on since the days of former VC Dinesh Singh, who was responsible for proposing the controversial Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) and Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS),” said a DU professor on the condition of anonymity.

In this struggle, NDTF has decided to side with Joshi. “Despite being on long medical leave without any formal application for a major brain operation, without producing any medical certificate for physical and mental fitness certificate from AIIMS where he underwent brain surgery, he illegally removed Prof Suman Kundu and appointed Prof PC Jha in his place. He was not a competent authority to have that power. It is obvious the main aim of professor Tyagi, through his negative actions, was to cause turmoil and disaffection against Modiji 's Union Government and UGC,” said AK Bhagi, NDTF president.

As an extension of this controversy, the chairperson and member of the governing body of the Dayal Singh College Rajiv Nayan has been removed. Nayan, who is known to be close to Tyagi, was in a tussle with the Dayal Singh (evening) College principal Pawan Sharma, who has been accused of plagiarism. The governing body had accepted the report, which found the principal guilty of plagiarism and they had decided to ask him to hand over charge to the most-senior teacher after his term ended on July 27. However, Delhi University overruled the decision and granted him an extension.

According to a few DU professors, who did not want to be named, this power struggle had to do with who would have a greater say in the academic council, which nominates two members to the search committee for the Vice Chancellor. The third member of the search committee is often nominated by the Ministry of Education. The Academic Council includes the VC, pro-VC, dean of colleges and DU department heads.

While suspending Tyagi, the Ministry of Education stated that Tyagi lacked commitment and failed to perform his duties as the VC and that included leaving several key posts vacant. DU has had no Controller of Examinations since 2016, and positions such as dean of colleges, director of south campus, principals in many DU colleges, librarian and treasurer have been lying vacant.

What do the teachers have to say?

Delhi University Teachers Association, while welcoming the move, stated that the Ministry of Education and UGC have been aware of the crisis in DU and are complicit in allowing misgovernance. “The fact that action is being initiated and inquiry has been set up following a bitter fight between two factions of the right-wing confuses us. Is this about justice for the teachers and the University or part of the muscle flexing being witnessed over the last week or so? The ministry is equally guilty of creating crisis after crisis in DU, whether be its agenda to privatise through forced MoUs or the recent imposition of OBE on hapless students. We wonder now if the posts were lying vacant because of the tussle between the Ministry and Professor YK Tyagi,” said Abha Dev Habib, treasurer, DUTA.

DUTA President Rajib Ray said that the ministry has been aware of the vacancies since June 2019 as “we had submitted a white paper on the issue to the ministry”. The DUTA white paper highlighted the inordinate delays in appointments, unduly postponement of decisions on sexual harassment cases in the university and attempt to outsource appointment of non-teaching employees to a private agency despite UGC orders to include these posts under the OBC expansion scheme.

The paper stated that in three years since the appointment of Tyagi, permanent appointments of assistant professors have taken place in one college and three university departments. Most posts of professors and associate professors in the university departments have been lying vacant and DU has not adopted the UGC Regulations of 2018, thereby causing a huge setback to teachers waiting for their promotions. The VC has not convened any meeting of the Academic Council in 18 months, delaying important decisions regarding the funding of various UGC courses in several colleges.

“The question of why the ministry woke up now when Prof. Tyagi was on medical leave must be asked. The image of the university has been tarnished in this power struggle. For one whole week, confusion reigned until the letter from President Kovind came. The ministry should have should have done it earlier,” underscored Ray.

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