New Nalanda Uni VC had written on Pratibha Patil’s leadership

The President of India ended all speculation on who would be the next Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University by appointing Prof Sunaina Singh, VC of EFLU, Hyderabad this week

Photo courtesy: efluniversity.ac.in
Photo courtesy: efluniversity.ac.in

NH National Bureau

Her appointment was considered a certainty even before the search committee was set up. So much so that in December last year, it was alleged that she had visited Nalanda ‘unofficially’ to take stock of the place. The President of India ended all speculation this week by appointing Prof Sunaina Singh as the next Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University.

Her appointment has raised eyebrows due to a variety of reasons, prominent among them being the following:

  • One of the eligibility criteria for the post advertised by the University was that the applicant should be an eminent scholar of Asian Studies. But the new appointee’s discipline has been English Literature.
  • Singh’s tenure as the Vice Chancellor at the English & Foreign Language University (EFLU), Hyderabad, which was due to end in May 2017, has controversial with charges of financial irregularities against her levelled among others by the CAG and student unrest marking the term.
  • She authored a book on former President Pratibha Patil, “The first Woman President of India: Reinventing Leadership” which was released at Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2013.
  • She happens to be a Vice President of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) while ICCR chairman Lokesh Chandra headed the search committee formed to recommend three names for the Nalanda University VC’s post.
  • She is deemed to be relatively an academic lightweight with little or no literary work or literary criticism that stands out.

However, Singh is said to have had the backing of Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Ram Madhav ‘Varanasi’ (yes, he has added the suffix to his name) who inducted her as a board member of New Delhi-based India Foundation, a right-wing think-tank with Ram Madhav, Shaurya Doval, son of the National Security Adviser Ajit K Doval, and MoS in the External Affairs Ministry MJ Akbar among the other board members.

Indeed the website of the India Foundation introduces her as follows: “As the head of a National University, Professor Sunaina Singh is among the most prominent women Vice Chancellors in the South Asian region. She is also the Vice President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi. She was the first Indian woman to function as the President of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, a Bi-National Research Organization (MHRD & Ministry of Foreign Affairs Canada) with headquarters in New Delhi and Calgary.”

She had also courted controversy by delivering an Independence Day speech at EFLU in English, by suspending a Deputy Registrar (Finance) for allegedly cooperating with the mandatory audit and rusticated students protesting against her.

Some of the audit observations held against her were as follows:

  • On request from the Personal Secretary to then Minister of Human Resource Development (Kapil Sibal) the University had provided an Innova vehicle for the Hyderabad camp office of the minister and reimbursed a sum of over ₹7 lakh to M/S Seaweg Enterprises as hiring charges from November, 2012 to October, 2013.
  • The VC was accused of receiving reimbursement from the University for two foreign tours sponsored by foreign agencies which covered her travel and other expenses.
  • The VC was also accused of receiving tour advances even for tours for which all expenses were borne by agencies like UGC, MHRD etc. Vouchers were not produced to the audit team.
  • The VC being equal to the rank of Additional Secretary to the GoI, was entitled to a telephone bill of ₹47,500 for 19 months between 2012 and 2013. But she was paid ₹94,296 more.

In addition, there were complaints of irregular and ad-hoc appointments.

Besides the ICCR chairman Lokesh Chandra, other members of the search committee were Arvind Sharma, Professor at McGill University, Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) at the Ministry of External affairs and NK Singh, former bureaucrat and Rajya Sabha member.

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Published: 30 Mar 2017, 5:54 PM