War of words over ICHR posting

NEW DELHI OCT. 10. What began as an "issue of procedure'' between the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry and the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is snowballing into a war of words between the Council Chairman, M. G. S. Narayanan, and the Ministry's designate for the post of ad hoc Member-Secretary, Kapil Kumar, of the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

After the initial round of words over telephone between the two on Wednesday when Prof. Kumar went to the ICHR to take charge and was told he could not do so as his appointment had been made by the Ministry without consulting the Chairman, and a subsequent office memorandum, the two exchanged a round of letters today even as all concerned await the return of the HRD Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, to work.

According to Prof. Kumar, he received a letter dated October 8 from Prof. Narayanan recording the conversation that transpired between them earlier that day when he went to take charge. Reacting to the Chairman's expectation that he "uphold the dignity and decorum of the Council and refrain from any action that will bring a bad name to the Council'', Prof. Kumar told The Hindu: "How can I be accused of not upholding the dignity of the Council when all I tried to do was join office as per a Ministry order? What about them who have issued an office memorandum against me?''

As for Prof. Narayanan's contention that the appointment was not acceptable because he had not been consulted, Prof. Kumar's counter was that this was not necessary.

Also, Prof. Kumar wondered why the Chairman had asked the Ministry to make an ad hoc appointment if he did not intend accepting its decision.

Amid this war of words, the first-leg of the search for a permanent Member-Secretary drew to a close today. In early September, soon after the last Member-Secretary put in his papers, Prof. Narayanan wrote to all universities asking them to suggest names for the post.

The names were to be sent in by today after which a screening committee will be set up to draw up the first shortlist. Thereafter, a search committee will be set up to suggest a panel of names to the Council which makes the final selection — subject to the HRD Ministry's approval.