Chennai: A year-long fight against corruption in higher education came to an abrupt end on Thursday with the transfer of higher education secretary Sunil Paliwal who played a key role in exposing several scams in the state universities including revaluation scam at Anna University and brought out several reforms to check the corruption in higher educational institutions.
It seems finally, the corrupt elements have succeeded in their attempts to replace an officer with unquestionable integrity and there are chances that tentacles of corruption might spread all over again.
During his tenure, it was made mandatory to execute all civil works worth more than Rs 10 lakh through the technical wing of public works department thereby removing a major source of corruption from the academic institutions.
To root out the corruption in examinations, the higher education department has entered into the agreement to procure coded answer sheets from the department of stationary and printing.
“Among the officers who helmed the higher education department in the recent past, he had shown a genuine interest in academic matters and streamlined the functioning of the universities by conducting monthly review meetings to registrars and alternative month meetings to the vice-chancellors,” a vice-chancellor who requested anonymity said.
Apart from conducting the review meetings, he personally attended almost all syndicate meetings of the state universities not done by any of his predecessors.
“Earlier, the syndicate members would only discuss issues that concern them. He brought decorum and dignity to debates in syndicates by attaching personal importance. It's a great loss to the higher education,” one of the syndicate members of Madras University told this paper.
Rampant corruption in the printing of study material at IDE was stopped by the higher education secretary who had also had steadfastly pushed for reforms, he added.
The higher education department recently lifted the ban on recruiting the faculty members. The transfer of higher education secretary has already got some of the vice-chancellors worried.
“Higher education department should not be taken back to the past where the corruption was rampant in the recruitment. Sunil Paliwal never exerted any pressure on the vice-chancellors to violate the norms. It is clearly a setback to all universities,” a senior professor noted.
Anna University was marred by corruption and inefficiency during the previous vice-chancellor M.Rajaram's tenure from 2013 to 2016. The situation has not improved even after May 2016 as the corrupt elements were roaming freely in the university.
“After taking over as chairman of three member V-C convener committee in 2017, he shunted out all the corrupt elements from the university campus and reformed the engineering examinations,” professors from Anna University said.
In Anna University, the exams would be conducted for 55 days and the varsity used to prepare more than 2000 different types of question papers.
“He brought the number of examination days down to 28 and created a window for an internship in both even and odd semesters,” professors added.
While reforming the examination system, the convener committee headed by him raised the first alarm against the revaluation scam in the university.
“At a time when Anna University's intellectual leadership touched an all-time low, higher education secretary Sunil Paliwal provided it in the absence of vice-chancellor. Although he cut an increment to me for my interview to a newspaper, I can still say that he provided a dynamic leadership to the higher education and initiated several measures against rampant corruption in the state universities,” said I.Arul Aram, president, Anna University Teachers’ Association (AUTA).
“I hope the measures against corruption will continue,” he added.
He recommended to DVAC to register a case against then vice-chancellor of Bharathiar University A.Ganapathy and conduct a detailed investigation. He was eventually, trapped and arrested while accepting a bribe by the DVAC.
C. Pichandy, former general secretary, Association of University Teachers (AUT) expressed disappointment at the transfer saying that the universities and colleges started to set their sail in the right course after a long time.
“During the last one and a half year, he brought several reforms and provided a clean administration. He initiated action against the corrupt elements in the universities and exposed several scams including the recruitment scam at Bharathiar University,” he pointed out.
In the process, he has earned the enmity of various caste groups and lobbies, even the higher education ministry also was against him. There were rumours doing the rounds for last several months that he would be replaced.
Despite that, he continued in the post of higher education secretary and was uncompromising. Sources said state government was very supportive of his reforms and streamlining the higher education.
So, suddenly what has changed?
“A senior official from the Raj Bhavan has conspired against him which had led to his transfer,” sources alleged.
Some professors raised the question over the suddenness of his transfer just when Mr Sunil Paliwal's effort to reform was beginning to show results and exposed the dark side of the higher education system in Tamil Nadu....