Person of the week

‘The whole structure of Mumbai University has become a farce’

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Neeraj Hatekar, Professor of Economics at University of Mumbai, is not a man who is easily intimidated. When he raised a banner of revolt against Vice Chancellor Rajan Velukar, Hatekar was well aware that the former would continue to remain firmly in the saddle. Despite this, the professor took on Velukar as he believes that though not all resistance may be successful, there must be resistance.

He was suspended for informing the media of alleged irregularities committed by Velukar, thereby breaching the code of conduct. A sustained agitation by university students and teachers made the administration revoke his suspension. He is firm that he will not give up or give in, whatever the consequences.

Q From being unsuitable for the job to irregularities in administration, the vice chancellor is mired in controversy. Why does he continue to hold job?

A The VC is a very powerful man with political connections. He enjoys the backing of Sharad Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal and is therefore difficult to dislodge. There are cases against him in court, but the courts are moving slowly on them, the media is not too keen on looking into the allegations, and the Chief Minister is not even replying to our letters. The NCP has been trying to tell me to be more ‘accommodating’.

Q So is the University in a mess?

A Definitely. The VC’s policies have eroded the structure of the university and the quality of education. The VC is using small groups of unqualified people to run his own fiefdom. Several co-opted members on the Board of Studies are not qualified to be there, there are malpractices in the conduct of examinations and dilution in the qualifications for being a PhD guide. The whole structure of the University has become a farce.All he is doing is manipulating and playing games instead of turning it into a world-class university.

Q Why did you take classes on the pavement? Did you want to send a message to the university administration?

A I was suspended, so could not take classes on the university campus. Besides, there is a university rule that teachers cannot call students home for classes. My students were losing out on classes and they were worried. I decided to teach my students on the pavement to help them finish their portion.

Q All major political parties have jumped on to the Hatekar support bandwagon. Why?

A Probably due to the mass support I was getting. AAP was the first political party to approach me. Probably, the other political parties did not want to be left behind.

Q Is there any threat to your life?

A Yes, I think so. I have received text messages warning me of dire consequences, I have been ‘advised’ by some people against going out alone or leaving my family alone. I will not be intimidated by these. What has to happen will happen and I am not giving up.

Q Has this agitation shaken up the VC?

A I don’t think so. He has not learnt his lesson. I have been told by people that I am dealing with a very devious man.

Q Will there be any action taken against the VC or at least some explanation called for?

A I did not think and still do not think that he will be changed. He appears to hold some power over all those who can take a decision to sack him. He has started a witch hunt to unearth some ‘dirt’ against me. The university administration is going over all my papers, testimonials etc, and digging deeper. But I know that there is no dirt. So let them keep looking.

Q With your suspension revoked, has your agitation hit a pause?

A No. It will continue until all the mess is cleared and this man is shifted out of his job.