Dwarakinath calls for inquiry into charges to clear the air

Even as the proposed University of Agricultural Sciences to be set up in Shimoga is mired in controversy with experts questioning the logic behind it, its newly appointed special officer too has not been spared.

The issue has gained importance with the doyen of the country's agricultural extension services, Dwarakinath, demanding an inquiry to clear the air.

The State government appointed Research Director of UAS, Dharwad, P.M. Salimath as special officer for the proposed university on November 28, 2011. His post was important because normally special officers go on to become the first vice-chancellor of new universities. However, the hurried manner in which the appointment was made drew the ire of experts. The notification in this regard referred to the proposed university as merely an agricultural university as against the earlier proposal to set up an integrated university.

As the earlier proposal was to take up research on crops specific to the Malnad region, among other issues, there was a need to treat this university as an integrated one by amending the University of Agricultural Sciences Act and the University of Horticultural Sciences Act because the subject of research to be taken up by the proposed university would cover issues coming under both Acts. But instead of clearing the legal decks, the government chose to set up an agricultural university. While the debate on whether such a university would make any qualitative difference to the Malnad region in the wake of the UAS, Bangalore, already catering to the region's needs was raging, Dr. Salimath found himself in two controversies, including the age row.

The age row

The genesis of the age row is related to his SSLC marks card indicating his date of birth as February 28, 1953.

Pointing out that he completed his four-year degree in agricultural sciences in July 1972, senior faculty members of agricultural sciences said that this would mean he got his degree when he was 19 years and five months old against the normal trend of 21. .

Another controversy was related to Dr. Salimath allegedly permitting a professor in UAS, Dharwad, as the then research director, to conduct a preparatory course for the varsity's entrance exams, charging Rs. 3,000 per candidate who applied for admission to degree courses under the farmers' quota.

As this was against the university's norms, the professor was under suspension until recently and the inquiry was still on. During the inquiry, the professor alleged that such a course was conducted after taking permission from Dr. Salimath.

This had upset several agricultural experts, including Dr. Dwarakinath, who was already concerned over the government not following norms or adopting a rational approach while deciding on starting new agricultural universities.

Speaking to The Hindu, he demanded that an impartial inquiry be conducted into both the controversies.

“First, we must take a relook on whether we need such a university in Shimoga as already its job is being done by the UAS, Bangalore. Instead of increasing administrative costs through such steps, we should think of using such funds to help farmers,” he said.

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