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Post Info TOPIC: Amartya Sen -- JD(U)-UPA nexus, self-chosen Chancellor, Nalanda Univ. scam -- Priyadarshi Dutta


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Amartya Sen -- JD(U)-UPA nexus, self-chosen Chancellor, Nalanda Univ. scam -- Priyadarshi Dutta
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Amartya Sen-JD(U)-UPA nexus

By Priyadarshi Dutta on July 26, 2013

Amartya Sen-JD(U)-UPA nexus

For a long time now Amartya Sen has aired views upon everything except perhaps economics. He is a ‘historian’, ‘political scientist’, ‘philosopher’, ‘sociologist’, ‘institution builder’, ‘self-appointed non-resident Chancellor, Nalanda University’ — everything that can be accomplished with flowery speeches alone has been accomplished by him. He has been adored by Indians almost as a sage. The Nobel Laureate in Economics (1998) never had any practical solution for India’s economy in testing times. Neither his economist friend Manmohan Singh nor his student Kaushik Basu, former Chief Economic Adviser, could leave it in better shape.
Then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee appointed Amartya Sen as Chairperson of Nalanda Mentor Group (2007). The project was wholly entrusted to him against the canons of establishing universities prevalent in India for the past 150 years. The MEA spent almost Rs 2 crore for their meetings in Singapore, Tokyo, New York as the project was formulated in virtual secrecy.
Amartya Sen never bothered to submit even in three years the detailed project report expected of him in nine months. The great economist could not even prepare a financial estimate for the project or bring any funds from abroad. Yet he was made Chairman of the Governing Board of Nalanda University. And finally the Board, chaired by him, chose him as the Chancellor in Beijing in 2011. What could be a better way to cling on to power; enjoy flying trips and luxury hospitality; and get repeated opportunities to preach to lesser mortals of India?
A courteous media never put uncomfortable questions to him when scandalous appointments and arbitrary dealings became apparent in Nalanda University. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, who originally envisioned the project, resigned in disgust. The MEA suppressed the letter until it was retrieved through an RTI application.
Amartya Sen-JD(U)-UPA nexus
Antipathy for the BJP
Amartya Sen’s recent fulminations against Narendra Modi can be contextualised both ideologically and politically. Ideologically, like every liberal, Sen is opposed to the BJP. This is despite the fact that the NDA Government conferred the Bharat Ratna on him. A lover of laurels he had no qualms about accepting it from a Government he disliked. But he criticised the BJP from the dais, embarrassing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Amartya Sen was in India for the release of his book “Rationality and Freedom” on the day the Godhra train massacre happened in 2002. He kept quiet in deference to his ‘secularism’. It is the same virtue which prods him to be quiet on the rise of Islamists in Bangladesh, a country he frequently visited.
Politics of obligation
Amartya Sen’s criticism of Narendra Modi is also a product of political sponsorship. It has to be understood in the perspective of the ‘politics of obligation’ practised within the Amartya Sen-JD(U)-UPA triangle. The cornerstone of this relationship is vested in the Nalanda University project. It is this fraudulent project that binds Amartya Sen, UPA and Nitish Kumar. It extends to supporting the policies of Manmohan Singh’s Government in New Delhi and Nitish Kumar’s Government in Bihar.
In fact Manmohan Singh and Nitish Kumar are both using Amartya Sen to validate their policies (including follies). Amartya Sen recently praised the National Food Security Bill, claiming it is the solution to hunger and malnutrition. He came in for serious criticism. In my ongoing series on food security I have used Government statistics to establish just the opposite – PDS coverage will shrink, entitlements might reduce and subsidy burdens will bloat. Amartya Sen, untouched by the Bihar midday meal horror, continues to praise the Bihar model of growth. His distributive Bihar model overlooks unspent allocation worth hundreds of crores of rupees meant for revamping hospitals and providing midday meals.
Sensational silence on corruption
Amartya Sen’s silence on corruption during the UPA’s rule is purposeful. This is because he has been a beneficiary of the UPA’s arbitrariness and distribution of favours in the form of total control over the Nalanda University project. Nalanda University has become a private estate with public money in the name of autonomy.
Amartya Sen appointed his favourite candidate Gopa Sabharwal, who has never taught at the post-graduate level, as Vice-Chancellor without any selection process. Gopa Sabharwal in turn appointed her friend and book collaborator Anjana Sharma through an equally arbitrary process with Amartya Sen’s approval. The only saving grace is that the inchoate university has failed to attract much foreign funding. Else the group would have been lording over thousands of crores of rupees. The story of the Nalanda University scandal, deserves to be told separately.


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Amartya Sen’s Nalanda University sham


By Priyadarshi Dutta on July 29, 2013

A self-chosen Chancellor: Amartya Sen has mentored the Nalanda University project since 2007. His current designation is Chancellor, Nalanda University – a post he was selected to at Beijing by the Governing Board (2011) that he himself chaired.  While some other names were considered like Prof Wang Gungwu and Prof Meghnad Desai (both Governing Board members) and Prof Sheldon Pollock and Prof Nobru Karashima (none of whom were informed about their inclusion) it was merely ‘statutory formality’ to help Amartya Sen to obtain the position. The minutes of the third meeting of the Governing Board of the Nalanda University at Beijing (October 14-15, 2011) make a frank admission of this fact. This elevation protected Amartya Sen from being excluded from the University project with the expiry of the Governing Board’s term. The Chancellor enjoys three year tenure and is eligible for re-appointment.
The current Governing Board is actually an interim one. It was mandated to function till a regular Governing Board was constituted as per Section 7 of the Nalanda University Act, 2010 or one year (until November 2011) which is earlier {vide Section 8(2)}. But Amartya and his friends who comprised this interim Governing Board (earlier called Nalanda Mentor Group) betrayed no intention of relinquishing power. Thus neither they nor the Ministry of External Affairs (the administrative ministry of the Nalanda University) made any effort to constitute a regular Governing Board. Rather the Section 41 of the Nalanda University Act, 2010 was invoked twice- in 2011 and 2012- to prolong the lifespan of the interim  Governing Board. Now that its third life is rawing to an end in November, 2013, there is an attempt to amend the Nalanda University Act, 2010.

Amartya Sen-JD(U)-UPA nexus
A scandalous selection of Vice Chancellor: When Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister, offered Amartya Sen the chairmanship of the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) on June 28, 2007, he was assigned an 8-point task. He was expected to submit his final recommendations in form a proper report within nine months. The NMG held meetings in Singapore, Tokyo and New York in 2007 and 2008 as per convenience of the members who lived in different parts of the world. But Amartya Sen could never file a proper report.  With inordinate time overrun of three years the minutes of the NMG meetings styled as ‘executive report’ were submitted. Though the Nobel Laureate could not find time for drafting a proper report, he found time enough for indulging in an unsolicited task. He recommended three names for the post of Rector (Vice Chancellor) out of which two appear to be dummy candidates.
The Terms of Reference evidently did not empower the Nalanda Mentor Group to select or recommend candidate for any post in the yet-to-be established University.
Amartya Sen's Nalanda University sham
But as Amartya Sen’s letter to Pranab Mukherjee, i.e., February 2009 reveals he recommended three names for the post of Rector. They were in order of preference a) Dr. Gopa Sabharwal b) Dr. Ramchandra Guha and c) Dr. Pratap Bahanu Mehta.
Amartya Sen's Nalanda University sham
How the names of the three candidates were shortlisted; how was the selection process conducted; and who were in the search committee and why it was a closely guarded secret. As far as one understands (a) the plump post was never advertised/publicised (b) no search committee was constituted c) there was no interview or selection process and d) Ramachandra Guha and Pratap Bhanu Mehta were never contacted for this top job. Amartya Sen never submitted any supporting papers related to the selection.
It was a wholly arbitrary exercise meant to favour a particular candidate viz Dr Gopa Sabharwal. Interestingly Sabharwal, Reader, Sociology Department, Lady Sri Ram College, has never taught post-graduate level students. But she was offered a salary twice that of any Vice Chancellor in India. Amartya’s criteria of selecting a Rector were rather curious. It had nothing to do with understanding of Nalanda tradition or history. One criterion was the ability to spend time in Bihar. Dr. Gopa Sabharwal, appointed arbitrarily as the Vice Chancellor, prefers to spend time in New Delhi. However, according to the Nalanda University Act, 2010, the headquarters of the Nalanda University would be in Nalanda district, the University has been administratively functioning from New Delhi since 2010. It currently functions from 53, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi- a stone throw away distance from Vice Chancellor’s official residence at Jor Bagh. The monthly rent, just for information, is Rs 10 lakh (with annual appreciation of 10 per cent) on a five year lease.
Amartya has no fig leaves to the hide himself. Only the media is not asking him the right questions.

http://www.niticentral.com/2013/07/29/amartya-sens-nalanda-university-sham-110858.html



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PMO bullied Pranab to toe Amartya line

 

By Priyadarshi Dutta on July 30, 2013
PMO bullied Pranab to toe Amartya line
Amartya Sen took special care in installing Dr. Gopa Sabharwal as the Rector/Vice Chancellor of the Nalanda University. To achieve that end, he seemed to have coaxed the PMO into bullying the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The episode is perhaps standalone instance in the annals of Indian bureaucracy- a Foreign Secretary was used to overturn the decision of a Foreign Minister. That this seems to have been done at the behest of an ‘interloper’ Amartya Sen is more curious. But thereby, Sen rescued himself from an embarrassing position that would have unintentionally exposed his sham selection process.
Sen, digressing from his Terms of Reference, recommended three names for the post of Rector in his letter, i.e., February 6, 2009 to Pranab Mukherjee. They were ‘in order of suitability’- 1. Dr. Gopa Sabharwal 2. Dr. Ramachandra Guha and Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Sen added in his letter, “When a Rector is identified by you; we would very much like her or him to join us in the next meeting of the Nalanda Mentor Group in Gaya on February 19 and Patna on February 20.” Note that in stating ‘her or him’ Amartya Sen implicitly accepts that the Rector could be one of the three.
As per office procedure, his letter was put up in a sarkari file with one and half page note by N Ravi, the then Secretary (East), MEA on February 17, 2009. The Secretary (East) was also an ex-office member of Nalanda Mentor Group. It is humorous that Ravi notes that he has gone through the bio-data of the three candidates as available on the Internet. This establishes the fact that bare minimum formalities for selection process like candidates submitting their CVs was not observed. None of the candidates had submitted their CVs, because none had actually applied. None had applied because the post was never advertised.
The note was sent directly to the Minister of External Affairs (bypassing Foreign Secretary). The MEA Pranab Mukherjee, however, slightly changed the order of preference before referring the case to the Prime Minister for his approval. Mukherjee wrote 1. Ramachandra Guha 2. Dr. Gopa Sabharwal 3. Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Mukherjee could be easily forgiven. Seen dispassionately Dr. Ramachandra Guha and Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta are eminent public scholars where, Dr. Sabharwal is hardly an authority even in her academic field. She has not even taught post-graduation level students. She is not eligible by the UGC standards to be considered as a Vice Chancellor in any provincial university of India. That requires at least ten years of Professorship, whereas, she is a Reader in Lady Sri Ram College.
The file resurfaced after remaining in limbo for a fortnight. What had happened behind the scenes remains a matter of speculation. But the file did not return by normal route. A file follows the same route down as going up. The Prime Minister, if he were not in agreement with the MEA should have written ‘please discuss’ or changed the preference on his own (ideally citing reasons). But strangely, we notice the Principal Secretary (in PMO) handing over the file to then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on March 2, 2009. We know this from Menon’s note. What the Principal Secretary told Menon is only a matter of guess. His note states that MEA better accepts Amartya Sen’s recommendation viz. Dr. Gopa Sabharwal. She becomes the ‘sole’ choice of Sen.
Menon sent the file up to Pranab Mukherjee who (in reversal of his earlier stance) readily signed on Amartya’s choice. A cautious Pranab marked the file to Principal Secretary, PMO rather than to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister got the file through his Principal Secretary and approved the name of Dr. Gopa Sabharwal on March 4.  Meanwhile, Sen in his letter, i.e., February 6, 2009, was apparently not rigid about his choice. He had referred to ‘her or him’. But when Pranab Mukherjee actually recommended Ramachandra Guha, it seemed to have upset Amartya’s applecart. How could Ramachandra Guha be appointed since he was a dummy candidate! He and Pratap Bhanu Mehta were either never contacted or never given their consent. Amartya’s ‘selection’ would have been exposed if the MEA contacted either of them.
Sen’s real agenda was to install Dr. Gopa Sabharwal, who was not even eligible for the post. The haphazard manner in which N Ravi’s note travelled up and down exposes the sham. But interestingly, neither the MEA nor the PMO questioned the legitimacy of Sen’s selection process or probed into its details. Nobody has authorised him to select anyone for any post in the University that was yet to be established. The Nalanda University Act, 2010 authorises the Visitor (i.e. the President of India) to appoint the Vice Chancellor. However, how Prime Minister approved the appointment of Vice Chancellor is difficult to guess. In fact, it only proves why almost everything about Nalanda University is so farcical. Interestingly today, Pranab Mukherjee is the Visitor to Nalanda University.

http://www.niticentral.com/2013/07/30/pmo-bullied-pranab-to-toe-amartya-line-111368.html



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UPA makes Nalanda University a tax haven

 

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By Priyadarshi Dutta on July 31, 2013

UPA makes Nalanda University a tax haven
Read the previous part of this article here.
During the week, the humblest tax-payer in India grappled with the nitty-gritty of e-filing of IT-returns (AY 2013-14) the UPA Government gifted a virtual ‘tax haven’ status to the Nalanda University.  The prospective academic biggies of the Nalanda University will benefit from the decision at the cost of taxpayers. This might not fit the exact definition of the term used in the financial world. But those tax havens at least have some financial brains and benefit from other people’s money. But here is a curious case where the Government of India would allow tax exemption to foreign and Indian academic staff of Nalanda University after paying them extraordinarily high salaries out of the public exchequer.
The Cabinet had cleared the decision on June 28.  A Headquarters Agreement to this effect was signed between Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Amartya Sen, Chancellor, Nalanda University on July 21, 2013. Journalist Tavleen Singh who fortuitously was present at the Taj Hotel that Sunday had wondered at the tamasha. In her column, Our Socialist Royalty, she wonders why the ceremony was being held in a plush hotel rather than Bihar Bhawan.
As one who has tracked the Nalanda University project for the last few years, I am hardly surprised. The Nalanda Mentor Group meetings (on which MEA splurged around Rs 2 crore in 2007-08) were also held in plush hotels of Singapore, Tokyo and New York. There was little willingness of the part of Amartya-led mentor group to even to tour Nalanda district. They visited Nalanda as late as February, 2009. They were not bothered about the grainy realities of Nalanda district while holding meetings in Singapore, Tokyo and New York. Then suddenly our Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal and her friend turned OSD (Official on Special Duty) Anjana Sharma realised that toilet facilities were not appropriate in Rajgir (the spot chosen for Nalanda University). This lack of facility was cited before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs (in 2012) as a prime reason for Nalanda University functioning from New Delhi. It is a pity that Sen’s much vaunted Bihar model of development could not produce tolerable toilet facilities in Rajgir.
Theoretically, there was nothing wrong if tax exemptions were granted when a number of east Asian states were providing money to Nalanda University’s kitty. But that dream has soured long ago. No foreign nation has come forward to commit any money to the project. China donated merely $1 million (Rs 5 crore then) in November, 2011 to be used exclusively for building a Chinese style library. Donations — mostly pledged, not given — are hardly mention-worthy. Most of the nations have nice encouraging words, since they cost nothing. For all practical purposes, it is the Government of India that funds the Nalanda University. Allowing high salaries is apparently not enough for attracting the best faculty. They have also to be allowed tax exemption.
But, pity, where are the students going to come from? Has any survey been done on which nations are likely to send their children to Nalanda University? There is no such study. It is the perfect example of ‘Amartyanomics’ — high on spurious assumptions, deficient at ground-level work. The faculty recruitment in Nalanda University will reportedly commence soon. But one wonders why no rules and procedures for faculty selection have been formulated in the statutes of the University. Is this not an indication that arbitrariness and favouritism will have a field day at Nalanda University, as is evident by the appointment of the Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal?


The ancient Nalanda University which produced an illustrious line of scholars, including Arya Deva, Dharmapala, Chandra Gomin, Shilbhadra, Shantarak****a, Padmasambhava Buddhakirti and Atish Dipankar was known for giving to the world. They all practiced humble living and high thinking. In fact, the most popular meaning of Nalanda is ‘giving incessantly’. But the mandarins of the current Nalanda University believe in ‘taking incessantly’. Tax exemption is the latest. The tax-payers will underwrite the largesse.


http://www.niticentral.com/2013/07/31/upa-makes-nalanda-university-a-tax-haven-111912.html



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