President of the Meghalaya Peoples’ Labour Union, Erwin K. Syiem Sutnga, who also ran unsuccessfully on a National People’s Party (NPP) ticket in the 2018 Assembly elections, has written to Union Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal about what he calls the decline of North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU).
A NEHU alumnus himself, Sutnga said that he is “pained deeply” to see the problems that have arisen in the university because of the “mismanagement of education, the education delivery system as well as the welfare and future of the stakeholders, namely the students, their families, the employees of NEHU and the teachers.”
Under Vice-Chancellor S K Srivastava, NEHU’s rank in the National Institutional Ranking Framework has fallen from 16th to 50th, Sutnga pointed out.
“This reflects that all is not well with NEHU and going by the serious allegations” against Srivastava, the letter said “and the rancour and anger amongst the students, employees, the teachers and the general public, the situation demands the appointment of a person who will be able heal NEHU. This will require someone who will be compassionate, knowledgeable, diplomatic as well as strong and determined whether in the sphere of human relationships, academics or administration.”
Sutnga alleged that in the last five years (under the tenure of Srivastava) the “lion’s share” of NEHU’s budget has been spent on repairs and building maintenance instead of focusing on academics. The drain on resources has only benefited some “cronies [and] a few favoured teachers”.
As a result hardly any spending goes on teaching, research, academic conferences and other “absolutely essential” matters of learning and dissemination.
The malaise, Sutnga added, has played havoc with the students during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the university, under Srivastava, was not prepared for.
Other issues include poor internet connection for researchers, favouritism in key NEHU appointments, irregular allotment in construction work especially on the Tura campus.
“All these matters require thorough enquiry and proper prosecution of those involved by the process of law,” the letter said.
Sutnga added his support for the new Vice-Chancellor to be a woman to honour Meghalaya’s matrilineal tradition as well as to be able to provide a “healing touch”.