Sanskrit varsity head gets fourth tenure, ignites row

By Prashant K. Nanda, IANS
Sunday, December 20, 2009

NEW DELHI - The vice-chancellor of one of India’s leading institutes of Sanskrit learning based here has got his fourth extension, reigniting charges that he has stayed on in the post too long.

Brushing aside a plethora of charges against him, the human resource development (HRD) ministry last month extended the tenure of Vachaspati Upadhyaya as head of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth.

Accordingly, Upadhyaya, who took charge of the university way back in 1994, will remain its vice chancellor till 2014 or when he reaches the age of 70, whichever is earlier.

The decision has made him perhaps the longest serving vice-chancellor in India.

His critics in and outside the south Delhi-based university are aghast.

A nonplussed vice chancellor says it is not his fault if the authorities are not able to find someone qualified to replace him.

“I am a government servant and all my extensions as VC is the decision of the government. A draft plan allowing only one term for a VC is yet to get the government’s approval,” Upadhyaya told IANS.

“I have been appointed by a search-cum-selection committee. The VC’s appointment is cleared by a cabinet committee. How can anyone challenge it?”

Those ranged against him say the fourth extension has come as a shock to them.

“A vice chancellor holds the post for one term (five years). At best he may continue for a second term. But Upadhyaya has been continuing for the last 15 years and has now got another extension,” said a professor of the university who did not want to be identified by name or designation.

Another university official told IANS on the condition of anonymity that several members of the teachers association, the Progressive Employees Association and the Karmachari Kalyan Sangh were unhappy with Upadhyaya.

The institute was established in 1962 when Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister. His daughter Indira Gandhi renamed it after Lal Bahadur Shastri after his death in 1966.

After many years of petitioning, it got the status of a deemed university in 1991, courtesy then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, a scholar politician.

The university conducts teaching on traditional lines at graduate,

post-graduate and research levels. It also conducts teachers’ training courses and several diploma, certificate and part time courses.

It has over 1,000 mostly male students, an overwhelming majority from outside Delhi, on its rolls.

Detractors say that when the institute became a deemed university, the aim was to preserve the traditional knowledge of Sanskrit through worthy individuals.

“We don’t have anything against Upadhyaya as a person,” a university source told IANS. “But he is not that extraordinary that he should keep getting extensions. It is hard to believe that there is no replacement for Upadhyaya in the entire country.”

Some of his critics, Sanskrit experts included, have gone to court alleging the vice-chancellor has flouted norms while appointing teachers. Worse charges have followed.

The HRD ministry has also been petitioned repeatedly to do away with Upadhyaya, a former Sanskrit professor from Delhi University.

One such petition, addressed to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, underlined that Upadhyaya should have retired on July 1, 2008, as he reached superannuation at the age of 65.

“The present vice chancellor …is holding the post for 15 long years, which is against the rules and regulations of the ministry and University Grant Commission (UGC),” said the petition.

In 2005, a petition to the HRD ministry by the “Teacher-Employee Progressive Manch” hurled corruption charges against the vice-chancellor.

The vice-chancellor, who was initially reluctant to talk to IANS, denied all the accusations.

“I know that many people talk many things about me. But I am only doing my job silently for the growth of this university and the promotion of Sanskrit,” he said.

(Prashant K. Nanda can be contacted at

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