Besides former West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee, two other arrests by the central agencies in connection with the multi-crore West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) recruitment scam have shaken the academic circles of the state.
The first arrest is that of the former West Bengal Board of School Education (WBBSE) president, Kalyanmoy Gangopadhyay by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sleuths. Since the day of his arrest, academicians and opposition parties say that this development has really tainted the rich heritage of West Bengal’s academic standards, considering that the marksheets and certificates of the first board examination in the state, Madhyamik, carry the signatures of the WBBSE president.
“So, one can well imagine the state of mind of lakhs of Madhyamik students who passed out during the ten-year tenure of Gangopadhyay as the WBBSE president and whose marksheets and certificates carry his signatures,” CPI(M) politburo member and the party’s state secretary in West Bengal, Md Salim said while pointing out that the education department amended the provisions again and again to accommodate Gangopadhyay in the chair year after year.
The second arrest was that of the vice- chancellor of the University of North Bengal, Subiresh Bhattacharya, who is also the former chairman of WBSSC. In fact, at one point of time, Bhattacharya used to hold three parallel posts at the same time namely vice-chancellor of the University of North Bengal, WBSSC chairman and the principal of Shyamaprasad College, which comes under the University of Calcutta.
“Bhattacharya was able to hold all the three chairs at the same time violating all norms and protocols, just because he earned the confidence of the ruling party and the then education minister Partha Chatterjee. And chief minister Mamata Banerjee remained silent then since Chatterjee was the milk cow for her party,” said BJP spokesman in West Bengal Samik Bhattacharya.
While these two arrests are being considered as major blots on the academic legacy of West Bengal, further damage has been done by a recent order from a division bench of the Calcutta High Court dismissing the re-appointment of Sonali Chakrabarti Banerjee as the vice-chancellor of the University of Calcutta.
The court held that her re-appointment was done without the consent of the then West Bengal governor and current Indian Vice President, Jagdeep Dhankhar. The opposition parties and even a section of the academics of the state have alleged that Banerjee’s re-appointment was a reward for the honorary D.Litt to chief minister Mamata Banerjee by the University of Calcutta during her tenure as the vice-chancellor.
While till now, th criticism came only from the opposition parties and a section of the academicians, rumblings of discontent over the academicians’ involvement in financial misappropriation and other controversies have started brewing in the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The first censure came from veteran Trinamool Congress leader and three-time party Lok Sabha member, Saugata Roy, who is himself a retired professor of physics.
Roy has questioned how Subiresh Bhattacharya retained the three positions of vice-chancellor of the University of North Bengal, WBSSC chairman and the principal of Shyamaprasad College at the same time. “It was really a reward of obedience and yesmanship. I do not know whether that obedience or yesmanship was towards any party or towards any individual. But the arrest of a vice- chancellor of a prime state university really does not speak well,” Roy said.
On Partha Chatterjee, Roy’s observation is that the pictures and videos of the recovered cash that went viral in the media has made things worse. “In case of Lalu Prasad Yadav, not a single penny was recovered. In the case of former Union communication minister, Sukh Ram the recovery amount was heard to be around Rs 4 crore. But here the recovery is much higher and the pictures of the recovered amount are viral everywhere. This results in great disquiet,” he said.
Veteran Trinamool Congress leader and the state agriculture and parliamentary affairs minister, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, known for his absolutely clean image recently said at a party meeting that those involved in corruption will no longer get the party’s protection and they will themselves have to come out clean from the court.
Political analyst and former registrar of the University of Calcutta Rajagopal Dhar Chakraborty feels that it is too early to say that this internal discontent over the education sector scam will spread further among the party’s rank and file very fast. “In my opinion, Saugata Roy’s comments were more reflective of his internal spirit as a former college professor rather than a ruling party leader. So, in my opinion we have to wait for time to see how many more ruling party leaders express similar discontent out of the call of conscience,” he said.
Political analyst and commentator, Arundhati Mukherjee agrees with Dhar Chakraborty but partially. “From the present situation and past context, it seems that the internal outbursts are short-lived. However, in my opinion as the central agencies will progress further in their probes into the different scams and more influential persons are netted, they will start passing the buck. Then the internal rumblings will automatically increase,” added Mukherjee.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed)