Nobel Prize Winner, India Gov’t in Higher Education Spat


Nobel Prize-winning economist and Harvard professor Amartya Sen has decided to step down as chancellor of India’s Nalanda University.

Last month the university’s governing board had voted unanimously that Amartya Sen should remain the chancellor for a second term. In accordance to the Nalanda University Act of Parliament, new governing board decisions only become operational when the President of India signs off on it, which he hasn’t, Sen wrote in a letter to the governing board of Nalanda University.

The delay, he said, is an indication that “that the government wants me to cease being the chancellor of Nalanda University after this July, and technically it has the power to do so.”

Nida Najar of the New York Times writes that Mr. Sen has been critical of India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi, and was particularly critical of him during elections last year.  Mr. Sen was critical of Modi regarding the Gujarat Riots, which happened during Narenda Modi’s term as the state’s Chief Minister in 2002.

Classes at Nalanda University started this past September after the university’s ambitious goals have made it difficult getting the project off the ground after years of development. The government of India had pledged more than $330 million to the University, which currently only has “two dozen faculty members students” on the campus.

Raymond Zhong of the Wall Street Journal reports that Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affiars in India, has denied that the government was trying to expel Sen. Spokesman Akbaruddin said the Ministry did receive an “excerpt of the meeting minutes” from when Sen was unanimously voted to extend his tenure.

“But, Mr. Akbaruddin said, the ministry only received the full meeting minutes on Feb. 13, and the president has two weeks after that to respond.”

Akbaruddin accused that Mr. Sen had “jumped the gun” when he decided to resign after not receiving notice that his second term was approved.

Amartya Sen was pessimistic of the political freedom academia has, saying in an interview that government interference in academia has “dramatically gone up” while the voice of the academic community has “dramatically gone down

Mr. Sen told The Wall Street Journal that he sees the delay as part of a series of moves by the government to undermine his and the board’s autonomy.

Last year, Sen accused that the Foreign Ministry failed bring to the President’s attention of “several” decisions passed by the board, thus the president never got the chance to approve or disapprove of them and that the government has taken steps to replace the board with another entity.

Galaxy Reporter relays that Dr. Subramanian Swamy, an Indian politician and economist, has claimed that Sen carelessly spent 3,000 crore (roughly $485 million) of taxpayer money. Dr. Swamy has suggested that he wants to file a public litigation petition to get the government to trigger prosecution Sen.

Dr. Swarmy was once invited by Sen to be a chair at the Delhi School of Economics, only to be rejected on arrival based on his views of nuclear weapons and market-friendly attitude.

03 3, 2015
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