A farewell note for Professor Yogesh Tyagi

– Prem Singh

(Asian Independent)- A new vice chancellor has been appointed in Delhi University (DU) after a wait of six months. Prof. Yogesh Singh will conduct the affairs of DU from the vice chancellor office. His predecessor Prof. Yogesh Tyagi, in the last phase of his tenure met with a serious illness. Unfortunately, at such a time he also became a victim of an internal power-struggle within BJP’s teachers’ front NDTF. The controversy borne from the power-struggle, in which the HRD ministry also playing a role, had gained considerable momentum and publicity for some time. Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) accused Prof. Tyagi of not performing his duties as vice chancellor.

Dr. Prem Singh

On the recommendation of the ministry, a committee was constituted by the Visitor to investigate the allegations after suspending him on 28 October 2020. The details of what happened to the allegations and the investigation are yet to be revealed.

While under suspension, Prof. Tyagi relieved himself from his post by writing a letter to the Visitor on 9 March 2021 on completion of the fixed tenure of five years. There was no formal or informal farewell ceremony for him. No teacher, educationist or university/ministry official even cared to write a farewell note for him in the press.

It had become clear at the time of the controversy that the entire episode was manufactured to get him out of the vice-chancellor’s office for the remaining tenure. Actually, at the time of Prof. Tyagi’s appointment as the vice-chancellor of DU in 2016, it was rumoured that he was not the choice of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the post. He was selected for the post under pressure from a BJP leader from West Uttar Pradesh. The government had to do this because the BJP had a massive electoral victory in western Uttar Pradesh for the first time.

The RSS pracharaks had already become active in Delhi University during the tenure of Prof. Tyagi’s predecessor Prof. Dinesh Singh and his partner Prof. Umesh Rai, Director South Campus. The RSS had also succeeded in securing several appointments in university departments and colleges during the same period. The RSS assumed that it was the opportune moment to saffronize Delhi University. That is why it wanted to bring its own vice-chancellor in DU as it did in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Prof. Tyagi, in fact, was not outside the RSS. But he was in favor of working under the directions of HRD ministry’s education department and UGC, and not under the dictat of the RSS. He did not form his team, which was ultimately never fully formed, and due to which the administrative work of the university was largely blocked, with the candidates proposed by the factions of NDTF. It also came to the fore that he wanted to take all the teachers’ fronts of DUTA with him. He was also accused of having sympathies with DTF, the teachers’ front of the CPM. Due to all this the RSS perceived a hindrance to its agenda in DU.

It was the time when there was a buzz in the university circles that the government had offered an important post at the United Nations to Prof. Tyagi since he was a reputed scholar of international law. But Prof. Tyagi it is said, declined the offer. However, he did keep attending the programs of the RSS and at the same time continued implementing the policies of the government/UGC in DU.

From keeping in abeyance the appointment of about four and a half thousand ad-hoc teachers to making rules for implementing contractual teaching, he thoroughly followed the policies of the government/UGC. The process of appointing guest teachers in the colleges of DU implemented during his tenure was, in fact, a rehearsal for contractual teaching. If the vice-chancellor was not concerned about the promotion of permanent teachers, and the delay in the cases of pension of retired teachers, then the government was not either.

The New Education Policy (NEP) was such a factor due to which it became necessary for the government to oust Prof. Tyagi from the office of the vice-chancellor. His serious illness and operation provided that opportunity to the government. After four and a half years of dealing with Prof. Tyagi, the government may have felt that he would not be amenable for complete obedience to make DU the first laboratory of the NEP.

The government was adamant to accomplish this task immediately. If Prof. Tyagi was even ready, in the event of illness, things would not have worked in that direction with the same urgency as was seen after his departure. The farce going on at present to appoint professors and senior professors in the departments of various faculties and colleges of DU should be seen as linked with the ‘quality’ of the NEP. Prof. Tyagi might not have let this happen.

I have never met Prof. Tyagi. I was abroad for teaching at the time of his appointment. Even after returning from there, I never needed to interact with him. I believe that essential works of teachers, administrative staff and students were delayed or not done during Prof. Tyagi’s tenure. The contractual practice in administrative work and ad-hocism in teaching continued incessantly during his tenure.

The logo of DU is an elephant. The University itself comprises about 100 colleges/institutes, and it is indeed a elephantine endeavour to run its affairs. Effective management of this vast university requires constant dedication of the vice chancellor and his team, so that the other participants – principals, teachers, administrative staff, students etc. – remain active in their respective roles. Unfortunately, Prof. Tyagi never formed his complete team.

Despite all this, to my mind, Prof. Tyagi made a significant contribution to the DU. To understand his contribution, one has to look at the tenures of his two predecessors.

Prof. Deepak Pental’s tenure (2005-2010) saw the infamous cobalt scandal in which two people were killed. It was not just an accident; it was a criminal act. At that time, there was a demand to arrest the vice-chancellor and others involved in that scandal by registering a criminal case against them. DUTA had organized a huge demonstration at the Delhi Police Headquarters on this demand. But the vice-chancellor got the advantage of high access in the Congress and the government, and such a serious matter got shredded. Prof. Pental had been surrounded by allegations of plagiarism during his tenure. Using the position of vice chancellor, he kept obfuscating this serious matter under the carpet. Later the matter reached the court and as per the court’s decision, he had to spend a night in Tihar Jail. Prof. Pental did not hesitate to break the rules and regulations of the university, suppress the instructions and orders coming from institutions like UGC.

After Prof. Pental, Prof. Dinesh Singh’s tenure (2010-2015) is known for many controversies/accusations. He was also known for his autocratic attitude. Prof. Dinesh Singh also used to call himself an old and close member of the Congress family. As soon as he joined, he made the vice-chancellor office a den of ‘Caste Panchayat’. For the first time in the history of DU, there was a direct intervention of the vice-chancellor’s office and the South Campus Director’s office in every appointment made in the colleges. Prof. Dinesh Singh’s behavior was full of malice and arrogance towards Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA). He often used to refuse meeting DUTA representatives. He also used to pressurize the college principals for not providing auditoriums for the meetings of DUTA. When DUTA planned to set up its tent for the sit-in, hunger strike, demonstration, his ‘bouncers’ used to misbehave with the teacher representatives. ‘Dinesh-Umesh’ duo used to directly threaten the Delhi University Appointed Teachers participating in the action programs of DUTA, or supporting the side of the elected teacher representatives in the Academic Council (AC) or Executive Council (EC) meetings.

He was so enamored and performance-loving that he arrived riding an elephant in the ‘Anterdhwani’ exhibition used to held at the university grounds during his tenure. (I did not see that scene with my own eyes. Only have seen the photos. My mind is not ready till today to accept that any vice chancellor can reach the event by sitting on an elephant!) A white paper regarding the financial and administrative misdeeds of Prof. Dinesh Singh’s tenure was prepared by DUTA and the same sent to the Visitor. The Visitor had issued him a show cause notice. By then the power at the center had changed. To avoid action against him, Prof. Dinesh Singh rushed straight to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat begging his shelter.

I have reluctantly given the above brief account of Prof. Tyagi’s earlier two predecessors. The facts are known to teachers of DU and available on internet.

Two things are clear from that narrative: One, both persons brought down the dignity of the post and the office of the Vice-Chancellor of DU. Two, the persons who bring down the dignity of the post and the office of vice-chancellor are not only confined to the BJP-regime.

The credit goes to Prof. Tyagi that he restored the dignity of the post and the office of the vice-chancellor in the University of Delhi. This is his significant contribution. The new vice chancellor Prof. Yogesh Singh now inherits a dignified vice chancellor office, thanks to Prof. Tyagi.

Hence, this farewell note.

(The author taught Hindi at Delhi University)