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Nepotism row in MTU VC appointment: UGC asks Manipur Government to take necessary action

File Photo: AMMSO shuts Manipur Technical University VC office, Administrative Block

Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh, who had promised to root-out corruption from Manipur, needs to intervene and initiate an enquiry into alleged nepotism and intentional partiality in the appointment of MTU VC and streamline functioning of the university

TFM Report

The ball is in the court of the Manipur government to end the controversy surrounding the appointment of Manipur Technical University’s regular Vice-chancellor and contain simmering resentment in the university over the issue. Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh, who had promised to root-out corruption from Manipur, needs to intervene and initiate an enquiry into alleged nepotism and intentional partiality in the appointment of MTU VC and streamline functioning of the university.

The University Grants Commission has asked the Manipur government’s higher education department to look into the matter and take necessary action. UGC’s directive followed a complaint lodged by RTI activist Wanhengbam Joykumar Singh to the All India Council For Technical Education (AICTE) dated 3 June 2022. In its letter addressed to the AICTE member secretary, Wanhengbam Joykumar Singh sought removal of MTU vice-chancellor Dr Bhabeswar Tongbram on the ground of misconduct, incompetent, dishonesty, fraudulent and immoral and also sought prohibition of him to work under any public authority in the country.

MTU Chancellor La Ganesan appointed Dr Bhabeswar Tongbram as Vice-Chancellor of MTU for a period of five years on 8 November 2021. However, his appointment soon raised a storm of controversy. Several student organisations mounted opposition to his appointment. They alleged that the new VC does not possess the essential qualification set by UGC for the post.

They maintained that an unqualified person holding a VC post will demean the status of the MTU which was set up with high hope of improving the higher technical education sector in the state.

Stating that the MTU was established as a state university under the Manipur Technical University Act, 2016 That on 23rd April 2016, Wanhengbam Joykumar Singh alleged in its letter to the AICTE that there are a lot of discrepancies in the appointment and functioning of the said University. One of the biggest discrepancies is the appointment of present VC Bhabeswar Tongbram, which may severely affect the academic and technical education system in Manipur, he added.

The AICTE, in turn, forwarded the letter to the Joint Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC), on June 24, 2022 urging him to initiate appropriate action as deemed fit in the matter. It also forwarded a letter/complaint dated 06.06.2022 alongwith its enclosures (in original) received from Kh. Dilson, Human Resources Development Secretary, All Manipur Muslim Students’ Organisation (AMMSO) HQ, Hafiz Hatta to the UGC on the same subject on 15 June 2022.

The UGC sent the copy of Joykumar’s letter dated 03.06.2022 to the Principal Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Govt of Manipur on 20 July 2022. In the letter, the UCG maintained that Joykumar’s letter is self-explanatory and urged the Principal Secretary to look into the matter and take necessary action for the redressal of the grievance at the earliest under intimation to the applicant.

The one of the grounds flagged up by Joykumar in his letter for removal of Bhabeswar Tongbram from VC post is that “he is not fit and competent candidate for the post of V.C. as he is not working in any college or University but just a mere lecturer of a Polytechnic which is equivalent to intermediate, institute below degree”.

Joykumar pointed out that before appointing as VC of the MTU, Dr Bhabeswar Tongbram was Lecture-S.G. (Civil Engineering) of Government Polytechnic, Imphal listed in the Sl. No. 16 of the Final Inter-se-Seniority list published in the year 2018 vide order No.1/8/2017-SE(T) dated 23/03/2018.

He also claimed that Bhabeswar’s Biodata/C.V. is a fabricated and concocted one and as such, he would be rejected from the post of the VC.

In his letter, Joykumar maintained that the notification for appointment of vice-chancellor of the MTU vide advertisement No.03/2021 dated 12th August 2021 was wrong/false and thereby it was pre-planted, nepotism and intentional partiality in favour of the said incumbent vice-chancellor by inserting the words i.e. having “Experience in Technical Education in bold letter of the said advertisement which is not in the Rules and Regulations for appointment of the vice-chancellor issued by the UGC.

“It may be concluded that the advertisement was made only for him and as such, the appointment may not be justifiable in the eyes of law. Further. Dr. Bhabeswar Tongbam is not eligible for the post of Vice-Chancellor of MTU. under section 7 3 of the UGC Regulations dated 18th July 2018 and as such, Dr. Bhabeswar Tongbram will be removed from the post of the present VC,” he argued.

Putting the records straight regarding the PhD Degree of Dr Bhabeswar Tongbram, Joykumar furnished RTI reply dated 16th June 2017, in which the Public Information Officer/Deputy Registrar/Aca. Manipur University, Canchipur, disclosed replying that the Equivalent Committee of the University resolved that the Ph.D. Degree in History is not equivalent to Ph.D. in Engineering and Technology as the said University has not available the course of Master/PG and Ph.D. in Engineering and Technology yet and as such, the Ph.D. Degree of Dr. Bhabeswar Tongbram should not be considered as the Ph.D. of Engineering in the selection of vice-chancellor of the MTU, Imphal.

“Therefore, the PhD. Degree of the Bhabeswar Tongbram is not for Engineering/Technology and he is not distinguished academician but a mere lecturer of a polytechnic and as such, he should be removed from the post of V.C. of MTU,” he maintained.

Besides, Joykumar stated that Dr. Bhabeswar Tongbram did not obtain the required approval/leave sanction order from the competent authority for undergoing further studies of PhD in History from Manipur University, Canchipur.

As per Civil Services Conduct Rules, the very act of Bhabeswar Tongbram doing PhD in History is amounted to misconduct, grossly immoral, dishonesty, incompetence and unbecoming of a public servant which may be punished under CCS(CCA) Rules, he said.

However, the Government of Manipur has intentionally failed to take appropriate action against Bhabeswar Tongbram despite one Lecturer of Government Polytechnic, Imphal filed a complaint to the Commissioner (Hr. & Tech. Edn.), Government of Manipur in this connection on 17th May 2017 and as such, his impugned appointment order of V.C. will be cancelled, he added.

In the letter, Joykumar also claimed Bhabeswar was rejected by the NIT, Manipur after selection as an Asst. Prof. (Civil Engg.) in the year 2010 because of his non-Engineering PhD.

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