THIS is a matter of serious concern that the government has launched a campaign against the teachers and students of the Jahangirnagar University who have been protesting against its vice chancellor, Dr Farzana Islam, for her allegedly corrupt practices, particularly in terms of managing finances in the infrastructural development of the institution. The deputy minister of education has publicly accused the protesting teachers and students of ‘creating disturbance’, and that too a day after the Student League, ruling Awami League backed student body, had publicly attacked the teachers and students on November 5. The agitating teachers, who came under the Student League attack in full view of the mass media, have naturally been shocked by the ministerial observation. What is, however, more alarming is that the prime minister has threatened on Saturday that she would ‘stop all funding’ to the public universities if the teachers and students do not stop ‘provocative acts’ in the universities. Earlier, she had threatened that the protesters had to prove the allegations of corruption that they had brought against the JU vice chancellor and that they would be punished if they could not prove the allegations. Notably, the VCs of some half a dozen public universities, most of whom were appointed on partisan considerations by the government, have recently been exposed to the wraths of students and teachers for their controversial activities.
The basis of the allegation of financial corruption against the JU VC was constituted much earlier, when her administration had reportedly manipulated the tender process of the university’s development project worth more than Tk 1400 crore and she publicly admitted that a few Student League leaders of the university demanded some Tk 1.5 crore from her as ‘gift’ while League boys in question admitted to their central leaders about the receipt of the money, following which two top leaders of the student body had demanded, what they called, ‘fair share’ worth Tk 86 crore from the Tk 1400 crore development project. The protesting teachers and students of the university have only demanded a credible investigation into the scandalous episode and stepping aside, if not stepping down, of the controversial VC for the sake of a fair investigation into the huge financial irregularities. It is, indeed, unfair to blame the protesting teachers and students for the present unrest in the university, instead of those who have not initiated a credible probe into the allegations at the earliest. It is high time the authorities concerned initiated a truly credible investigation into the allegations of corruption, and ensured justice to the image of the university.
Meanwhile, the idea of stopping government funding of the public universities appears absolutely unreasonable, for the money spent for the public universities belong to the people, in the first place, while the government functionaries are rather paid from the public exchequer to rationally manage the public money in different sectors of public importance. In that case, the government would be well advised to bring the extortionists of the public money to the book, instead of thinking about stopping funding the country’s institutions of higher learning.
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