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private parties (Fiss 1984: 1073). It is to give force to constitutional values and ensure that such values infuse the content of the true aim of adjudication justice. A statute that is created only for people residing in rural areas, with limited procedural guarantees, to adjudicate allegedly small claims including those that implicate a litany of social welfare legislation concerning Minimum Wages, Civil Rights,

Abolishing Bonded Labour, Equal Pay and Protection from Domestic Violence compromises the promises of our Constitution. It makes a mockery of that which is most sacred to all law that power, resources and the quantum of private gain will not determine the aims or means of the process that is adjudication. The Gram Nyayalayas Act violates this essential foundation of adjudication.

References
Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee: Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, 22nd Report on the Gram Nyayalayas Bill, 2007. Fiss, Owen M (1984): Against Settlement, Yale Law Journal 93:1073. Galanter, Marc and Jayanth K Krishnan (2004): Bread for the Poor: Access to Justice and the Rights of the Needy in India, Hastings Law Journal 55:789. Tewari, Sulabh and Tanya Agarwal (2006): Wanna Make a Deal? The Introduction of Plea Bargaining in India, Supreme Court Cases (Cri) (Jour) 2:12.

Implementation of the Maharashtra Universities Act


B Venkatesh Kumar

An evaluation of the implementation of the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 shows that individuals who excel in electoral arithmetic, rather than academics or academic administrators, occupy important posts in universities. The state government has appointed three committees to suggest reforms in higher education. Not only is there a need for a new legislative enactment, these committees also face the challenging task of recommending changes that will lead to academic freedom and accountability in the states universities.

ecently, the Government of Maha- rashtra announced the formation of three committees to suggest measures for reform of higher education. While two of these have been given the task of looking at the existing Maharashtra Universities (MU) Act, 1994, recommending new legislative enactments, and bifurcation of universities, the third committee has been given a much broader mandate. It has been asked to suggest ways and means to improve the standard and quality of higher education. There are other issues which they are mandated to look at within a holistic framework (http://techedu.maharashtra. gov.in/english/dcmNew/index_UC.php? departmentCode=2402) of reforms. This raises several concerns. First, with three committees there is the risk of contradictory recommendations. Second, there is no representation from the social sciences and the legal field, both essential for (re)drafting of the Act. Third, the committees recommendations will be examined by another committee chaired by the education minister. The political control over higher education in Maharashtra is so deeply embedded that reforms leading to academic freedom and excellence look like a distant possibility.

of political elites setting up educational institutions for public good, has decided to get its house in order by looking at reforming the public universities. It is quite intriguing because the same political class that governs a large number of educational institutions in the state (in fact, they believe that healthy public universities are a threat to their institutions) are now looking at reforming these universities! The current initiative in Maharashtra is in continuation of the landmark reform process that was initiated by the state government at the instance of the former Governor and Chancellor of Universities, S C Jamir. These reforms, initiated in 2009, were aimed at improving the governance of universities in the state, some of which achieved the desired outcomes (Kumar 2009). This article examines the current state of higher education in Maharashtra and the implementation of the MU Act of 1994. It also looks at issues of external and internal constraints which have led to the deinstitutionalisation of many universities. Such deinstitutionalisation in turn has resulted in a severe crisis of governance. There is need for a new legislative enactment and a diversified institutional design for universities a challenge these three committees will have to address.

Current Status
An independent study for the Planning Commission (Pethe et al 2009) for the midterm review of the Eleventh Plan, which draws heavily from the Maharashtra governments statistics, has interesting pointers. While the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for India is about 13.1%, Maharashtras GER is 13% in higher and technical education. On the other hand, while the GER for vocational education is

Interesting and Intriguing


B Venkatesh Kumar (venk71@gmail.com) is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and currently a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Penn State University, United States.

The state governments decision to overhaul the higher education system is both interesting and intriguing. It is interesting because Maharashtra with its long tradition

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5% for India, Maharashtra is at an abysmal 1.5%. A significant component of vocational education are the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), whose growth rate in terms of number of institutions and capacity has been just 1% over the last four years while the number of students there has grown by over 10%. Most universities in Maharashtra are facing a severe faculty crunch. There are large number of vacancies in teaching positions both in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across disciplines engineering, the natural sciences, pharmacy, management, architecture, and the liberal arts to name some. The level of faculty shortage is almost to the order of about 55% to 60% and mostly in government aided institutions. Another critical factor is the case of public funding for higher and technical education institutions. Allocations to the Department of Higher and Technical Education (DHTE) were 2.2% of the entire plan size during the Tenth Plan period. A quick perusal of the data of the financial progress of the DHTE for the 10th Plan (2002-07) and 11th Plan (2007-12) reveals that nearly 60% of the allocation has been spent but almost 40% allocation for the 10th Plan has lapsed. However, there has been better performance in recent times and the level of expenditure has touched 80%.

Drawbacks in Existing Legislations


The law has given the universities un limited power to take on affiliated institutions. Over the years, the universities have used this power indiscriminately pressured by politicians known as shikshan samrats (educational barons), and other lobbies so that at present they find themselves stretched beyond their capacity. They face the near-impossible task of catering to the demand of both providing mass education and maintaining high research quality. A closer examination of Chapter III of the existing Act will bring out the contradictions. While the universities have been given a lot of autonomy something the state government keeps tomtoming in public forums, this so-called autonomy is a myth. This is borne out by several provisions in the Act. While a university has the freedom to establish inter-university centres, research labs and instrumentation centres on its

campus, it needs to take prior approval from the state government if such a facility is to be used by an industry or non-governmental institutions, or if an external institution were to provide any of these facilities (Section 5(7)). This interferes with the universitys autonomy and under such provisions industry-academia collaboration can hardly ever take place. Again, the university will have to comply with the state governments directive from time to time on any of the powers, duties and responsibilities that are assigned to it. The outrageous provisions undermining the very essence of a university and its autonomy are the overriding powers that the state government can assume over the university by taking action for noncompliance of its directives (Section 8(4)). Additionally, the overriding powers vested in the chancellors of universities (very often these are exercised by functionaries of the chancellors office) can give further scope to undermining the functioning of the university (Section 9). A quick perusal of the above provisions and their exercise in the past will amply demonstrate that the external constraints the state government and the office of the chancellor have alarming powers to interfere in the functioning of the university. At times, the close connivance between these two actors has resulted in

over-centralisation and over-concentration of powers. This has led to delegitimisation of the institutional head and the judiciary has on more than one occasion expressed concern over this. Additionally, the Act also specifies that a government representative is necessary in the selection committee for recruiting a faculty member (Sections 76 and 77). Normally, a government representative (who is invariably of joint director rank) is present. One wonders how capable these officials are in gauging the academic qualities of the candidate being interviewed. Or is s/he the conscience keeper to ensure there is fair play? Are the capabilities of the institutional head and academics of repute invited for the selection committee process to be doubted? When there is a chancellors nominee on the selection committee, do we require an additional government hand to oversee the process?

Mediocrity or Excellence?
The factors that contribute to the internal set of constraints are manifested in the composition and appointment of various functionaries which help a university to govern both its internal administration and its academic growth and development. A perusal of Chapter III (Section 9-23) and Chapter IV (Section 24-50) will illustrate the current system as it exists.

Call for Papers for National Workshop on

Impacts of Watershed on Poverty Alleviation


The Centre for Water and Land Resources is organizing a Two Days National Workshop on Impacts of Watershed on Poverty Alleviation during January 20-21, 2011 at National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad 500030. This workshop is aimed at to explore the linkages between watershed development and poverty. Watershed is one of the strong interventions for reharnessing the natural resources which benefits the rural poor. Many projects of watershed are implemented by the different agencies. The impact on poverty is one of the issues in watershed programme which needs to be unraveled for further policy options. Papers are invited from academicians, subject experts and the policy practitioners from the line department and the civil society organizations latest by 24th December 2010. You can send your papers to Dr S S P Sharma, ssp_sharma@yahoo.com or to Dr. U Hemantha Kumar, hemanthakumar20102@ gmail.com Co-ordinator of the workshop. The authors of the selected paper would be invited for presentation. The institute will reimburse the 2nd AC railway return fare to one author only. For details see NIRD website: www.nird.org.in S S P Sharma Professor & Head (CWLR)
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The section that deals with the process in which the deans (Section 15) are appointed shows the huge gaps in the appointment process for this position of great academic importance. As a result, it has often come to be occupied by individuals who have excelled in electoral arithmetic, rather than in academics or academic administration. The process of lobbying and elections has unfortunately devalued an important academic position. It has also been observed that rarely do the deans come from a university department. Most of those who hold the position come from undergraduate colleges. The irony becomes pronounced when we note that the deans usually serve on the selection committee for all faculty recruitments in university departments, including full professors. A closer look at the composition and functioning of the various authorities in the university such as the Senate, Management Council, Academic Council, Boards of Studies, and the Research and Recognition Committees raises interesting questions. Some of them are composed of people who represent the larger public interest. This has become a breeding ground for individuals seeking upward political mobility and has benefited both small time political fixers and upcoming education barons. In other bodies, an undergraduate faculty would sit on judgment on matters relating to postgraduate teaching and research. Most often, faculty members involved in designing/teaching such a programme are not involved in the process of decision-making. The way these bodies especially the academic bodies have functioned have often resulted in subordinating postgraduate teaching and research to the undergraduate constituency. While it is important to involve the undergraduate faculty in their programme, it also needs to be appreciated that there is a fundamental difference in the approach to more specialised fields of learning. In recent times, this issue is beginning to be addressed by some postgraduate departments seeking academic autonomy, but is still a very small number. In 2009, realising the need to review the governance structures of the universities, the state government initiated reform

in the process of appointments of vice chancellors (Kumar 2009). While these reforms have brought about a few desired changes there is still ample scope for abuse in the reform process. The most recent instance being the manner in which the vice chancellor of the University of Mumbai has been appointed. A list of names was recommended by a search committee (appointed by then state governor S C Jamir) consisting of individuals of impeccable integrity and academic credentials. Even as they were invited for an interaction with the governor before the final selection, Jamir was replaced by a new appointee.1 Soon there were issues raised about by one of the members of the search committee (which was seemingly a non-issue while Jamir was in office) and the process was nullified by the incumbent governor. A new search process was reconstituted and a fresh list of names was recommended finally resulting in the appointment of a new vice chancellor. This entire process has raised larger issues of fair play and has now been challenged in the court of law. Some existing gaps in the new legislative enactments need a closer look. One such concern is the desirability of having a serving bureaucrat (normally of the rank of principal secretary) in the search committee. Would it not lead to interference by the elements that are an external constraint? Interestingly, even in the process of the appointment of vice chancellors of central universities, no bureaucrat from the Ministry of Human Resources Deve lopment is involved. Further, essential qualifications for the position of vice chancellor as in 3A of the recently amended Maharashtra Universities Act, 2009 need a serious review. For instance, there is a provision, which states that a candidate applying for the post of vice chancellor, should have executed at least one major research project. This is contrary to the principles of eminence and outstanding academics that the current process purports to achieve. Similarly, the state government also re-defined (in 2009) the criteria for the composition of university bodies and some authorities (Kumar 2009). These new criteria have undoubtedly raised the academic level required of individuals trying for such offices, though it had predictably

drawn a lot of resistance, particularly from individuals who found themselves underqualified for the posts they held.

Task before the Committees


The committees task, therefore, is daunting and challenging. Given the massive expansion of the universities over the years, there is a need to create systems that are more manageable. Additionally, these will have to, on the one hand, cater to the demands of mass universities (increasing access) and at the same time create opportunities and mechanisms for institutions that can achieve excellence. The issues regarding undergraduate (colleges) and postgraduate (universities) levels of education also need a fresh look. The committees must look at the options of creating new institutional designs and processes. These could result in a highly diversified institutional framework which will replace the old legislative enactment. Their recommendations should give space to the fundamental principles of autonomy (from external and internal constraints), participatory decision-making and shared governance (boards of trustees, educational administrators, state government, faculty governance and students), and finally to academic freedom and accountability.
Note
1 The meeting of shortlisted candidates with the governor, S C Jamir was scheduled in the third week of January 2010. The gubernatorial changes were effected in the middle of January 2010. This resulted in collateral damage.

References
Kumar, Venkatesh B (2009): Governance Issues in State Universities in Maharashtra Economic & Political Weekly, Vol XLIV, No 50, 12 December, 23-25. Pethe, Abhay et al (2009): Economic Indicators of Maharashtra: An Overview (An Independent Assessment for Mid-Term Appraisal of the Eleventh Five Year Plan), Department of Economics, University of Mumbai.

available at

Akshara-The Executive Partner


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