HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Monday made a strong defence of controversial decisions like removing some bureaucrats from ministry and scrapping of the FYUP, as she rejected the charge of saffronisation of education system, saying her government is bound by the Constitution.
Reeling out statistics to drive home her point that spending in education during the Narendra Modi government is more than the previous UPA regime, she attacked the opposition for accusing her of appointing Hindutva scholars in academic bodies, saying many of them are associated with the Left and Congress as well. [Smriti Irani defends FYUP scrapping, rejects saffronisation charge]
Irani also revealed how the erstwhile UPA government made appointments to key universities during its last few days. Media reports tried to create sensation over transfers of senior bureaucrats in the HRD ministry ever since Smriti Irani took over as HRD Minister.
But the reality of the transfers of bureaucrats from HRD however tells a different story as shared by the Irani in the Lok Sabha. Irani with her speech on Monday not only silenced the opposition benches but also brought to the fore the irregularities in the HRD ministry during the last days of erstwhile UPA regime.
MM Joshi's letter exposed UPA regime's breach of model code of conduct
Earlier last year, former HRD minister and veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had written a letter to the President of India in which he had raised serious questions on the appointments to the positions of Vice Chancellor at various Central universities of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Orissa, HN Bahuguna University in Uttarakhand and the Hari Singh Gour University in Sagar.
The letter from MM Joshi to the President written on the May 8, 2014 reveals how the UPA regime was playing with the process of appointments in its last few days.
As per an Indian Express report, Joshi alleged ‘manipulation' by the ministry in the process of appointing new vice-chancellors to 12 new Central universities and demanded that the selection process be scrapped and left to the next government.
Raju, a Tamil Nadu cadre 1985 batch IAS officer, was until June 6 handling issues related to Central universities. His bureau was currently busy with the appointment process for new V-Cs to 12 Central universities and the controversial four-year undergraduate programme of the University of Delhi.
He came on Central deputation in March 2009 and completed his term in March, 2014. Raju was given an extended tenure of one year ahead of elections in March. The Joint Secretary in-charge Raju was appointed during the last days of the UPA Government even as the Election Commission imposed model code of conduct was in place.
Following Joshi's complaint, Raju was removed by the HRD Ministry in June, 2014.
UPA appointed VC was arrested by CBI
As per a report published by NitiCentral, a damning letter was written on May 13, 2014 (days before the results of the Lok Sabha elections) on the manner of the appointment of the Vice Chancellor to Dr Hari Singh Gaur University in Sagar.
The letter written by Prof Yoginder Alagh to the then Secretary of Higher Education in the HRD Ministry raised serious concerns on the name of Dr NS Gajbhiye being recommended in the shortlist.
Gajbhiye, senior professor of IIT-Kanpur, was appointed as vice-chancellor of Dr Hari Singh Gour Central University, Sagar just a couple of days before announcement of Lok Sabha poll results. Gajbhiye was later arrested by CBI in connection with seven different cases registered against him.
It is to be noted that all this happened when the ministry was dysfunctional and headless because the then Minister Pallam Raju had tendered his resignation over bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. But, the ministry went ahead with appointments to various universities allegedly at the behest of certain bureaucrats.
All these reveals the story of controversial circumstances under which Vice Chancellor appointments were being made by senior bureaucrats within the HRD Ministry in the last few days of the UPA regime.
This is a clear example of how deep the rot runs within the HRD Ministry and Smriti Irani's decisions to clean up the ministry by challenging the status-quo has resulted in such a strong backlash from Congress and other opposition parties.
Irani rejects opposition's claims of Saffronisation of books
On the charge of saffronisation of education, she said her government was committed to spreading education "within the limits prescribed by the Constitution".
"The Prime Minister had given this assurance. I am repeating it on the floor of the House," she said.
Irani's combative response came during a debate on Demands for Grants for the HRD Ministry, in which she singled out Sugata Bose (TMC), drawing sharp reaction from his party members who demanded an apology which was outrightly rejected by her.
Taking on Bose and Sushmita Dev (Cong) for their claims of appointing people with 'saffron' ideology to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), she said scholars like Purabi Roy, associated with CPI, and Sacchidananda Sahai, a close associate of Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev, too were appointed to the body.