Kerala: Professor Quits After HRD Asks PhDs Only To Be On Topics Related To ‘National Priority’
On March 13, a circular was issued by the CUK (Central University of Kerala), Kasargod after getting a mandate from the Ministry of Human Resource Department that while doing PhDs, research students should take up those topics for their thesis that are in accordance with ‘national priorities’. The circular further said that PhD would be allowed to select topics from a shelf of topics prepared by each department.
After the circular was issued in CUK, Dr Meena T. Pillai, a professor of the Institute of English and Director of Centre of Cultural Studies at the University of Kerala resigned from the Board of Studies in English and Comparative Literature on March 20, to mark her protest against the decision. The circular and Dr Pillai’s subsequent resignation has caused a lot of hue and cry in the student community and public.
“Need an atmosphere where one can think freely”
While talking to News18, Dr Pillai said, “The circular issued in the university focused on three important points. Firstly, it stated that the research has to be curtailed to the areas of national priorities. Secondly, the research in irrelevant areas will not be allowed. And thirdly, the students have to choose from the list of projects that the faculty would prepare.”
According to Dr Pillai, a research student needs an atmosphere where he/she can think freely and ask any questions. But, as a result of the mandate, free thought will be completely destroyed which is against the spirit of education, she opines. People should think of education before voting in the forthcoming elections, she added. Further, she said that in a time where our country’s education system must progress, this move is like bringing a feudal system in it. She said that budging to such circulars would mean that in future those in power who dictate younger generations on what and how to think.
Citing an example where NCERT has removed an entire chapter related to breast cloth revolt, an important facet of the history of Kerala, Dr Pillai said that certain kind of history is being erased as it is not considered as a subject of national importance by a handful, while this very thing forms an important part of the history for the people of Kerala.
CUK reportedly issued a ‘clarification’ on the earlier notice released on March 13. The clarification said that the term national priority referred to research that is useful to society and is socially relevant. The Vice-Chancellor of the University is yet to comment on the issue, The Indian Express reported. However, an unconvinced Dr Pillai said there is a difference between national interest and social relevance and that if the university has to come up with multiple interpretations, “they might as well withdraw the circular”.
The university described Dr Pillai’s resignation as a political stunt.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on March 24 slammed HRD Minister Prakash Javedkar for putting a restraint on PhD topics by calling him a ‘self-attested wise minister’ on his Facebook account. He posted that –
Shashi Tharoor, an Indian politician and writer also tweeted saying that –