To:  http://www.nearinternational.org/ ,  hrwla@hrw.org,  hrwsf@hrw.org,  hrwuk@hrw.org, hrwnyc@hrw.org,  hrwdc@hrw.org,

Stop Madras Institute of Development Studies’ witch hunt against Professor Radhakrishnan

Dr. P. Radhakrishnan, Professor of Sociology, is a scholar of great eminence with an excellent grasp of social reality. He is a highly respected social critic. His consistently principled position on issues and forthright articulation of them are well known.

Many of his works are mentioned on his official Website ( http://mids.ac.in/prk.htm). The most recent ones (not on the Website) include an article on `Farmers’ Suicides in India: Some Sociological Reflections’ (South Asian Journal, No. 11, January-March 2006), another article on India’s affirmative action policy from historical, constitutional and judicial perspectives (in press), a third article on academic freedom from human rights’ perspective (to be presented shortly before a world forum), a book (in press) on India’s socio-political undercurrents (tentatively titled India’s Transformation Traumas), a long and timely interview on India’s affirmative action politics for the rediff.com (`Dalits have not benefited from Quotas’;  http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/jun/13inter1.htm), and so on.

As readers would recall, his `Religion under Globalisation’ in the Economic and Political Weekly of 27 March 2004 was an outstanding masterpiece  http://epw.org.in/showArticles.php?root=2004&leaf=03&filename=7012&filetype=pdf).

Professor Radhakrishnan has been with the Madras Institute of Development Studies (funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, Government of India) for the past 25 years. Ever since he joined it he has been consistently upfront against its unfair, unjust and unscrupulous practices.

Though his active and timely intervention has helped MIDS from time to time, as though a retribution for it he has been in the dog-house for the past five years or so.

In November-December 2000 he was on the Search Committee for appointment of a pro-tem Director in MIDS, and he along with other members had agreed to the appointment of Mr. V.K. Natraj, who had just then retired from Mysore University.

As per the MIDS Governing Council’s decision the Search Committee was to co-opt the pro-tem Director, and continue its search for a regular Director. When the Search Committee did not meet for 18 months, Professor Radhakrishnan raised the issue with the Chairman of the Governing Council. To his dismay, the Chairman informed him in writing that since Mr. Natraj was appointed as a regular Professor and Director for five years the Search Committee ceased to exist from the date of the Governing Council’s decision.

Since the MIDS Faculty Service Rules has clearly stipulated that the age of superannuation is 60 years, and no regular appointment of a retired person is allowed after 60, and since the decision of the Governing Council was in gross violation of the service rules, on receipt of the Chairman’s letter Professor Radhakrishnan contested the decision of the Governing Council in the Madras High Court.

Ever since then he has been on a witch hunt by the Chairman and the Director of MIDS, and their coterie.

The Professors of MIDS are nominated to its Governing Council on rotation for a period of two years at a time. Even though it was Professor Radhakrishnan’s turn in 2002, he was excluded from nomination on ground that he had filed a case against it.

The secretarial and other assistance extended to him till then were withdrawn abruptly.

In two meetings of the Academic Council of MIDS the Director (Chairman of the Academic Council) colluded with other members and humiliated him before everyone.

In one case, since he mentioned in his Work Report to the AC the withdrawal of facilities to him, at the behest of the Director the AC allowed the Director to take up the matter with the Executive Council (appointing and disciplinary authority) of MIDS and make him resubmit the Work Report. The Executive Council consisting of five persons, of whom the Chairman is the Chairman of the Governing Council, and the MIDS Director is member-secretary, and a MIDS Professor is a member, issued a directive to him to fall in line or face disciplinary action.

In another AC meeting, a well-meaning observation by him on a colleague’s contribution to the guidelines for the PhD programme of MIDS was distorted by the Director as a “slur” on his colleague and the Director insisted on his apology. When he refused to do so stating that his observation was in good faith, the Director exacted a resolution from the AC condemning his behaviour.

On a third occasion, Professor Radhakrishnan, in his capacity as ex-officio member of the AC informed the Director that as per the faculty evaluation rules only the AC can constitute evaluation committees and not the Director merely because he happened to be its Chairman. When Professor Radhakrishnan insisted that he would like to be evaluated by a duly constituted committee, the Executive Council again issued a directive to him to submit for evaluation or face disciplinary action.

As though all these harassments were not enough, on behalf of the Executive Council the Director issued him a show-cause-notice on some flimsy grounds such as not giving seminars, not attending certain number of faculty meetings, and his reference to the Director in a letter to the Chairman (forwarded through the Director) as derogatory.

As the show-cause-notice was prima facie malafide and issued without following the procedures laid down in the service rules, feeling enough is enough Professor Radhakrishnan approached the Madras High Court and got a stay on it. Though the Director tried to get the stay vacated, the judge orally observed that he was convinced about the malafide of the action and made the stay absolute.

By this time, though it was again Professor Radhakrishnan’s turn to be on the Governing Council, he was again excluded citing the case against the Governing Council as reason, and another Professor, already on the Governing Council and whose term had come to end, was re-nominated.

In the course of a brief meeting which he had with the Chairman of MIDS in early 2005, the latter informed Professor Radhakrishnan that he will be nominated to the Governing Council only if he withdrew the case, in which case the show-cause-notice against him will be dropped, and the Chairman, will issue him a nice letter on his letter head for withdrawing the case! Stating that the two issues are not related Professor Radhakrishnan left the Chairman’s room.

The actions since 2005 have been even more obnoxious and vindictive. Professor Radhakrishnan was entitled to the use of the staff car for official work (such as attending meetings elsewhere) without any ceiling on mileage. With a view to harassing him, a ceiling of 200 Kms. a year (16.66 Kms. a month!) was introduced uniformly for all the faculty members from lecturer to senior professor. The Director (who is paid a hefty sum as special allowance every month including for conveyance at the instance of the Chairman without the authorisation of the Governing Council which alone can decide on the Director’s perquisites) and some professors still use the car without any ceiling.

Though Professor Radhakrishnan is entitled to an annual contingency grant of Rs. 10000/- when he applied for it last year, his request was returned on some flimsy ground.

When he requested the Director to replace his defective telephone instrument with a new one, the request was turned down, though four unused new instruments as part of the sets bought for the Chairman and the Director are gathering dust.

Though Professor Radhakrishnan was expected to take over editorship of the MIDS Journal, Review of Development and Change (he had done considerable work on developing the journal format when MIDS founder late Dr. Malcolm Adiseshiah requested him to do so, and offered him joint editorship, which he politely declined), in 2005 the new Director passed on the journal work to some of the junior faculty, with the Director’s name appearing as editor!

As the new Director, who was appointed as Professor in MIDS along with Professor Radhakrishnan, wanted time to take charge as Director, the Chairman did not even show the courtesy of approaching Professor Radhakrishnan, and ignoring his seniority – professorial and otherwise - of several years, appointed a professor on probation as Acting Director.

At the instance of the Chairman, the new Director along with some professors has been deciding on important institutional matters, without as much as consulting Professor Radhakrishnan. He is also not allowed to chair seminars in MIDS. All these are intended to convey that so long as he does not withdraw the case against the Governing Council he will he harassed, humiliated, and treated as persona non grata.

MIDS is a public institution. The case filed by Professor Radhakrishnan is in larger public and academic interest under his Constitutional rights as a citizen of India. As MIDS has not filed any case against him, he should not be denied his institutional entitlements as a senior Professor, and the witch hunt against him is barbaric, to say the least.

As the actions of the MIDS Chairman and Director and their coterie, as a kangaroo court are unjust and unfair, and also have larger implications for academic freedom and institutional well-being, we call upon the Governing Council of MIDS to probe into the behaviour of its Chairman and Director, the funding agencies - the ICSSR (Chairman and Member Secretary), the Minister for Human Resource Development, Mr. Arjun Singh, and the other funding agency, the Tamil Nadu Government through its Chief Minister and Chief Secretary to probe into the affairs of MIDS, advice its Chairman and Director to mend their ways, and if necessary, appoint other persons to their positions.

Any failure of MIDS to provide a person of the calibre of Professor Radhakrishnan - who has done much to the development of MIDS as an academic institution, and contributed much to public life and the academia – conducive atmosphere for work and to restore his institutional entitlements including and especially his nomination to the MIDS Governing Council, at least from henceforth, should be condemned strongly and unequivocally by all those who cherish and value academic freedom, and personal and institutional integrity.
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Sincerely,

The Undersigned