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Bribed!

The deep and penetrating rot of corruption in Tamil Nadu’s higher education system has been exposed with the arrest of the Bharathiar University’s Vice Chancellor

At 9am on the morning of February 03, a conference was taking place at Bharathiar University in Coimbatore. Vice Chancellor A Ganapathy was at the conference.

In between, he received a call. It was his wife, informing Ganapathy that Assistant Professor T Suresh had arrived at their residence. Ganapathy cut short the conference and immediately left to his home. Suresh had brought with him Rs 1 lakh in cash to give the Vice Chancellor. The exchange of money took place at the Vice Chancellor’s residence at around 9:45am.

But Suresh was not alone. With him were three other men. Ganapathy did not know that the other three were in reality, officials of the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC), all in plainclothes.

The cash too was not regular currency. It had already been coated with a special chemical. Suresh had also handed over five post-dated cheque leaves totaling Rs 29 lakhs. These too were coated with the chemical.

Ganapathy received the cash and handed it over to his wife. He then accepted the cheque leaves. At this point, when the sleuths announced that they were from the DVAC, Ganapathy’s wife hurriedly left the room with the cash.

Then began a day-long questioning of the Vice Chancellor of Bharathiar University, along with Assistant Professor Suresh who was the complainant. The cash though, was not to be seen anywhere. When DVAC officials searched Ganapathy’s house, they found that he had hurriedly torn up 28 of the Rs 2000 currency notes and flushed them down the toilet, in an attempt to destroy the evidence. “The DVAC team broke open the closet and recovered the pieces of 28 numbers of Rs 2000 notes and the remaining amount was recovered intact,” read the statement by the DVAC.

By 4pm, the DVAC issued a press release –

“Today (03.02.2018) Tr.A.Ganapathy, age 67, Vice Chancellor, Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore was trapped by DVAC while demanding and receiving bribe of Rs.30,00,000 /- (30 lakhs) from the complainant Tr. T.Suresh, age 41, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Bharathiyar University to complete his probation as Assistant Professor. Demand amount is paid by Rs 1 lakh in cash and 29 lakhs as post dated cheques. Tr.A.Ganapathy reiterated his demand and accepted the bribe amount at his residence. Tr. Dharmaraj, Professor of Chemistry, Bharathiyar University who aided Tr.Ganapathy also booked by DVAC. Already a Detailed Enquiry has been taken up by DVAC against Tr.Ganapathy as per the order of the Government of Tamil Nadu.”

Officials conducted an exhaustive search of the premises and found wads of cash inside the septic tank and in other parts of the house. The amount recovered is yet to be ascertained. Documents have also been seized by the DVAC.

Deep Rooted Corruption

Tamil Nadu’s shame over the past decade has now been exposed, according to experts and educationists. Ganapathy, they say, is only the tip of an enormous iceberg.

In December 2016, a little over a month since the demise of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, a group of Vice Chancellors of 10 State Universities as well as the Registrar of Anna University trooped to meet VK Sasikala at Jaya’s Poes Garden residence. The visit was ostensibly to offer condolences to the late Chief Minister’s closest friend. But Sasikala was the new power centre and activists and academics raised a hue and cry over the meeting, condemning the overt submission of academia to politics.

In a writ petition filed before the Madras High Court in 2017, petitioner A Narayanan, Founder Director of ChangeIndia, a non-profit, wrote – “I submit that the dignity and high esteem of the office of the Vice Chancellors got a fatal blow, when a delegation of Vice Chancellors of 10 State universities and Registrar of Anna University met Tmt.V.K.Sasikala, the beleaguered political leader and aide of late former Chief Minister Selvi J.Jayalalitha, ‘in the guise of expressing condolences’ and urged her to take over the mantle of Chief Minister of the State. Though, it is an open secret that many appointments of Vice Chancellors are based on political considerations and even based on highest bid, the cheap behavior of the Vice Chancellors was extremely shocking and revolting. This incident of crass political opportunism was an indelible blot on the office of the Vice Chancellors who are expected to be apolitical and be role models to Professors, students and the society caste.” (sic)

Narayanan had filed his petition in court pleading for immediate appointments of Vice Chancellors of various Universities in the state. Inordinate delays in appointments of VCs had hurt students (who were not able to get their degrees) and administration of the Universities. Then Governor Vidyasagar Rao, in May 2017, finally impressed upon the State government, the need to amend the laws for appointing VCs.

An ordinance was passed stating that search committees for VCs would be constituted six months before the tenure of the incumbent VC ended. Another key point was that the list of probable candidates for the VCs’ post should be finalised within four months of the committee being constituted. The ordinance was soon enacted into a law called the Tamil Nadu Universities (Amendment) Act, 2017. Vice Chancellors were subsequently appointed, in some cases, after a year of the post lying vacant.

Narayanan had listed out a series of cases of corruption relating to top management of various Universities in Tamil Nadu in his writ petition. Here are the major cases along with the State Higher Education Department’s responses filed in court.

Source: Affidavits submitted in Madras High Court in Writ Petition No 13117 of 2017

Year Allegation Government Response
April 2017 Incumbent VC of Dr MGR Medical University Geetha Lakshmi raided by IT Dept for over 30 hours

 

IT officials questioned VC for 2 days

 

No substantive report from IT Dept given to government on VC misusing her power or evading tax. Therefore government could not initiate action
2009 Corruption allegations against then Anna University, Coimbatore R Radhakrishnan suspended, DVAC inquiry ordered and arrested in 2016

 

Convicted to 5 years rigorous imprisonment, fine of Rs 1 lakh under Prevention of Corruption Act. One more case pending against him.
July 2012 Madurai Kamaraj University Assistant Professors and Associate Professors posts (120 in total) sold for Rs 14 lakhs between 2010-11

 

University appointed One-Man Enquiry Committee, retired Justice A Raman. In July 2017, government has directed Registrar to place report before it.
NA Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli: Allegations of fraudulent admissions, awarding of marks to students and selling of franchise to dubious institutions for conducting distance and continuing education.

 

No violations found
Periyar University, Salem: Allegations of irregularities, shady deals and corrupt practices.

 

DVAC requested furnishing of records, which has been done. No raid in Periyar University.
Thiruvalluvar University, Vellore: allegations of large-scale scandal in appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff for its four constituent colleges. No irregularities in appointments
2010 Anna University: allegations of fake mark sheet scam in admissions to engineering seats. Another scam of awarding of marks to Engineering students who have failed in examinations

 

DVAC submitted report against then VC Mannar Jawahar and disciplinary action initiated against him. Inquiry officer said the charges against Jawahar not proven and he was let off
2011 University of Madras: allegations of irregularities in BE/BTech and distance education examinations for 2011

 

In September 2013, Syndicate members initiated disciplinary proceedings against 16 employees for manipulation of marks
2011 Anna University: allegations of systematic fraud against officials including former VC for collusion with son of former Governor of TN (Surjit Singh Barnala). Allegations include collusion, forgery and rigging of tenders in favour of former Governor’s son for supply of materials

 

Charges not proven by DVAC
2011 Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore: allegations of corruption and diversion of university funds by then VC Murugesa Boopathy to his wife’s private trust. DVAC enquiry ordered against him on more than 20 charges which included purchase of Chinese equipments, surveillance cameras and security equipment at highly inflated rates from the firm of son of former Governor (Barnala)

 

Chinese equipments: Case registered by DVAC Coimbatore under Prevention of Corruption Act against former VC

 

Surveillance and security equipment: DVAC Chennai registered case under PCA against Barnas International, Vepery in March 2012. Offices of Registrar, VC, HoDs searched in April 2012

2012 Tamil University, Thanjavur: Academic M Thirumalai, known for “uprightness and probity” appointed as VC in Feb 2012, resigned in less than 3 months of appointment, unable to stand the corruption

 

VC resigned his post in May 2012 due to “some misunderstanding” with employees’ union. Rejoined as VC after a week of resignation. Completed 3 years’ tenure as VC
2012 Bharathiar University: DVAC enquiry into alleged irregularities, allegations of favouritism in appointment of Registrar, Senate committees and violation of UGC norms in recognition to certain colleges

 

Appointments made in accordance with guidelines
2009 Bharathidasan University: allegations against then VC Ponnavaikko of selling of teaching posts and irregularities in award of contracts

 

After detailed enquiry into allegations by DVAC, former VC was released of all charges
2012 Anna University: Madras High Court ordered a probe into irregularities of excess admissions in Department of Architecture on account of allegations that architecture seats were sold for Rs 15-20 lakh per seat

 

120 seats were to be filled with qualified candidates by Council of Architecture. Allegations are false and baseless
2012 Anna University: VC residence raided by DVAC over charges of fabrication of fake quotations in order to favour Chennai-based company Barnas International

 

Charges not proven
2012 Bharathiar University: 20 MSc and PhD holders submitted a petition to District Collector alleging irregularities in appointments made for around 80 posts of Professors and Assistant Professors No complaint received by Bharathiar University. No such large appointments took place in the said year

 

2013 Annamalai University: VC M Ramanathan suspended for financial irregularities, including diversion of funds running to several crores of rupees and misappropriation of funds

 

Special audit team of government found irregularities in diversion of funds to hospital, appropriation of PF and contributory PF, non-remittance of pension contribution, lapse in collecting dues, excess appointments, excessive fixation of salary. Ramanathan suspended in April 2013. Allegations being inquired into by DVAC

 

2015 Bharathiar University: Controller of Examinations Glady Leema Rose suspended in August 2015 for alleged involvement in irregularities in sale of semester exam answer scripts to scrap dealers

 

Madras HC in August 2015 ordered that Glady Leema Rose be reinstated and proceed against her strictly. Enquiry pending

Top academics are elated at the news of the Bharathiar Vice Chancellor being caught red-handed collecting a bribe. P Kanagasabapathy, Syndicate member of Bharathiar University told The Lede – “I too heard that there are a lot of discrepancies in earlier appointments. In fact we have been trying to rectify the system and I am very happy that these kinds of actions are being taken. But I do not know what exactly is happening. If evidences are found, then certainly severe action must be taken,” he said.

Kanagasabapathy went on to say what was unspoken until now in Tamil Nadu. “Everybody knows that until about 6 months back, the appointment of VCs in Tamil Nadu was in a serious mess. For the last 10 years, appointment of VCs has been based on money, not on merit. Serious efforts must be taken by authorities to stop this. If the VCs are appointed on the basis of money, they will in turn take money from others. This has got to be stopped,” he said firmly.

Senate member Kamala Kannan who is based in Coimbatore, who is a representative of the Association of University Teachers (AUT), told The Lede that Ganapathy had begun his “velai” (work) within six months of his appointment as VC of Bharathiar University. “On January 16, we spoke at the Senate that action must be taken against former VCs of Bharathiar University as well – Swaminathan and James Picchai. As for Ganapathy, he has not followed the reservation policy in appointments and there is a lot of misgovernance. The AUT has been issuing statements against him over the past few months. There is even one case of an Assistant Professor in the Tamil Department who had paid Ganapathy Rs 66 lakhs for appointment. Guess where the candidate got the money from? From his father in law, as dowry. He joined the University immediately after his wedding,” he said. This allegation could not be independently verified by The Lede. Kannan also said it is not enough to stop with just Ganapathy but that all Universities must be probed.

Narayanan of ChangeIndia sees this case as an opportunity to clean up the system, with pressure from parents and students. “There have been DVAC raids several times,” he told The Lede. “The DMK (opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) is saying AIADMK (ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) is to blame. But the rot had set in during the DMK regime and it has become the norm during the AIADMK,” he stated.

“It is a betrayal of the youth. Tamil Nadu is touted to be the state with highest enrolment of students. Quality of education has taken a beating because of corruption. When the Jallikattu issue happened (in January 2017), the youth came together emotionally. But what is happening in higher education in Tamil Nadu is going to affect the future of all students. They should now come together to root out the corruption in the education system of Tamil Nadu,” he said.

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