Centre denies bid to ease out Amartya Sen

The External Affairs Ministry said it was yet to receive the approved minutes of the Governing Board of Nalanda University's meeting.

February 20, 2015 04:26 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 07:14 pm IST - New Delhi

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

The Union government on Friday rejected Nalanda University Chancellor Amartya Sen’s contention that it was trying to ease him out of the position.

“No attempt has been made by the government to curtail Professor Sen’s tenure at the university,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told The Hindu.

The Ministry denied any delay in processing the recommendation of the Governing Board of the university for another term for the Nobel laureate at the end of his tenure in July. While the Ministry said the draft of the resolution had been received only on February 13, Board member and Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose said the Vice-Chancellor had been asked to send the decision to reappoint Mr. Sen to the Visitor (President Pranab Mukherjee) immediately after the last meeting in mid-January.

In his letter to the Governing Board, in which he announced that he would not seek another tenure, Mr. Sen said: “More than a month has passed since [the Board meeting], and it now seems clear that [President Pranab Mukherjee] has been unable to provide his assent to the Governing Board’s unanimous choice, in the absence of the government’s approval ... It is hard for me not to conclude that the government wants me to cease being the Chancellor of Nalanda University after this July.”

Sen slighted for criticism of Modi?

Prof. Amartya Sen’s letter to the governing board of Nalanda University, first reported by The Hindu, has led to a storm of criticism by Opposition parties. Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar called Prof. Sen a “national treasure” and said it was unfortunate the government had treated him “shabbily.” Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar, who was Bihar Chief Minister when Nalanda University was re-established, said he was “deeply pained” by the decision.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy demanded an inquiry into the funds he claimed had been “squandered by Prof. Sen and his appointees in the university.” He also said the government should systematically weed out from the administration and governance all foreign citizens and “so-called NRIs who owe institutional allegiance to foreign interests and ideology.”

Rashtrapati Bhavan officials declined to comment on the controversy amid speculation that Prof. Sen was being slighted by the government because of his earlier criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sources told The Hindu that the President was yet to be apprised of the matter but “would act on the advice of the government” on the appointment to Nalanda University.

Another governing board member, who asked not to be named, described it as a “needless controversy,” maintaining that Prof. Sen’s allegation of interference by the government in the functioning of the university was baseless. “It is normal for the government to await the receipt of the formal minutes of the meeting,” he added.

“The procedure has neither been delayed nor violated,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, adding: “Given that Prof. Sen’s term ends only in July 2015, there is no need for the allegation of inordinate delay.”

The government also seemed to question Prof. Sen’s claim that the GBNU endorsement for him was “unanimous.” According to the MEA, the resolution they received contained a proviso that if the Visitor (President) so desired, they would provide an alternative list of three individuals. No specific names had been suggested.

The MEA is the nodal ministry for Nalanda University that is overseen by a Board of Governors or the Nalanda Mentor Group. According to the procedure, it will forward the Board’s resolution on Prof. Sen to the President for his approval. However, with Prof. Sen bowing out, officials say, another meeting of the governing board will probably have to be convened.

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