The Modern Review (Calcutta) Vol XXXVIII/State of the Calcutta University

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The University of Calcutta as constituted at present consists of three different inter-related bodies:—

I. The Senate.
II. The Faculties and
III. The Syndicate.

The Senate is the supreme authority in the Calcutta University and consists of:—

(1) Ten ex-officio fellows.
(2) Ten fellows elected by the registered graduates,
(3) Ten fellows elected by the faculties and
(4) The remainder nominated by the Chancellor.

The Viceroy and Governor-General of India held and now His Excellency the Governor of Bengal holds the Chancellorship of the University. According to a list printed by the Calcutta University on the 12th November, 1924, there were 108 fellows in all in the Senate, ten out of whom were ex-officio fellows, ten elected by the faculties, ten by the registered graduates and seventy-eight nominated by the Chancellor. The Calcutta University ought to have been therefore a semi-official body, because 82.4 per cent of the members of the Senate or the sovereign body are either government employees or the nominees of the Government. During the regime of the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the Senate of the Calcutta University proved that, though the majority of its members were nominated by the Government, that body possessed a distinct independent opinion of its own. With the Senate at his back the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee defied the Governments of India and Bengal with impunity and carried all opposition before him. His administration of the Calcutta University, whether as Vice-Chancellor de facto or de jure, amounted to a benevolent despotism, the best form of Government possible. But towards the closing years of his life the great educationist of Bengal committed one serious blunder, which clouded and is still shadowing the horizon over the Calcutta University. This blunder was Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee’s reliance on “expectations” from a certain quarter and an enormous Increase in the expenditure on certain departments based on these expectation. The way in which Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee made the Senate totally subservient to him proved definitely that in spite of a series of Acts passed by the supreme and the Bengal Councils to improve the state of affairs, some grave defects have remained which have vitiated the entire system. The Senate of the Calcutta University as it stood on the 12th November 1924 contained some of the foremost educationists, brilliant scholars and ablest men in the country. Yet in spite of this fact, this august body was persuaded on the 27th September 1924 to appoint a committee to enquire into possible retrenchment and the re-organisation of the Post-Graduate Department of the Calcutta University, consisting of 18 members including the Vice-Chancellor out of which ten were salaried officers of the University itself. The manipulation of the votes proved that the successors of the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee in the leadership of the party in power are as astute as tneir predecessor. The tactics followed were exactly the same as those followed by the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee in packing “the Government Grant Committee” and a number of others.

It is perfectly clear from the constitution of the Senate that it is impossible for anybody to organise a party with the aid of the 20 elected members. The chronic absolute majority which the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee created in his favour and which maintained him as the dictator in the University, even when he had ceased to be the Vice-Chancellor, proved that he had succeeded in getting many such candidates nominated by the Government into the Senate as were absolutely his creatures. It would not have been necessary for me to review the entire situation in the Calcutta University at the present state, had if not been for the fact that the closing years of the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee’s administration were characterized by the introduction of some sham and puerile research work which had made Indian scholarship a bye-word of reproach outside India, by a total demoralisation of primary end higher education in Bengal and Assam by lowering the standard of examinations and the selection of some totally unworthy text-books and by the introduction of a mercenary spirit in the educational system by the practical sale of diplomas and degrees in order to maintain the vast unnecessary expenditure of the University. What I mean by these words is practically known to everybody tn Bengal, though only a few have dared to voice their disapproval of the state of affairs in the University. The public exposure of the so-called research work carried out by some of the teachers and lecturers of the Calcutta University, such as Dr. Gauranga Nath Banerjee and Dr. Ram Das Khan, has brought ridicule upon the heads of all Indian scholars in Europe and America. The practical sale of University degrees in the shape of a very liberal percentage of passes in all examinations of the University, beginning with the Matriculation and ending with the Premchand Roychand Scholarship and the Ph.D. had handicapped the young men of Bengal in competing with the graduates and under-Graduates of other provinces in all-India competitive examinations; such as the Indian Civil Service, Indian Financial Service, etc. I have often been told by certain persons in Calcutta that this statement emanates from implacable enemies of the University, but now I know from personal experience that as a scholar the Madras and the Bombay graduate is far more accurate than the Calcutta graduate of the last ten or twelve years, and such graduates of the Calcutta University as still maintain the reputation of the country in India and outside are men of exceptional merit, who would have held their heads high even if the Calcutta University had ceased to exist.

The principal defect in the constitution of the Senate of the Calcutta University lies in the present system of nominations by the Chancellor and the totally inadequate number of graduates who are registered and are therefore entitled to elect ten members of the Senate. The defect in the system of nominations lies principally in adherence to a particular custom. It appears that the Chancellor in Calcutta is bound to nominate only such Fellows as are recommended by the Vice-Chancellor or whose names are not objected to by the Vice-Chancellor—a custom which is unknown in the case of other Universities. The manner in which the nomination of Mr. Charu Chandra Biswas as one time a member of the Syndicate, was opposed by the then Vice-Chancellor, proves the existence of this pernicious custom. This custom is the principal cause of the present state of affairs in the Calcutta University and its steady decay in the field of education. On the 12th November, 1924 the following 23 out of 78 members of the Senate nominated as Fellows by the Chancellor, were salaried officers of the University of Calcutta ;—

(1) Mr. Heramba Chandra Maitra,
(2) Dr. H. Stephen,
(3) Dr. P. J. Bruhl,
(4) Sir Prafulla Chandra Roy,
(5) Mr. Jnan Chandra Ghosh,
(6) Dr. Satish Chandra Bagchi.
(7) Dr. Dines Chandra Sen,
(8) Mr. Jnanranjan Banerjee,
(9) Mr. Biraj Mohan Mazumdar
(10) Mr. S. Khodabuksh,
(11) Dr. Prafulla Chandra Mitra,
(12) Mr. Monmatha Nath Roy,
(13) Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar,
(14) Dr. A. Suhrawardy,
(15) Mr. Abinash Chandra Bose,
(16) Aga Muhammad Kazim Shirazi.
(17) Mr. Promatha Nath Banerjee,
(18) Mr. Rama Prosad Mukherjee,
(19) Dr. Abanindra Nath Tagore,
(20) Dr. Ganesh Prasad,
(21) Dr. Pramatha Nath Banerjea,
(22) Dr. C. V. Raman,
(23) Mr. Shyama Prosad Mukherjee,

The dynasty of the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee has, further strengthened its hold by enlisting among its supporters a number of men who ought to have been otherwise independent and open-minded. The facts of the cases regarding these members of the Senate are too well-known to the public. A prominent supporter of the party in power is said to be interested in the contracts for electrical installations which are given to one of his near relatives. A number of eminent scholars have been practically purchased by a liberal supply of honoraria for doing very little work in connection with the text-books published by the University. A certain amount of reciprocity was noticeable in the case of certain persons in the matter of appointing each other’s relatives in the Calcutta University. These are the methods employed by the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee and his successors to keep their hold firm upon the University of Calcutta. In the case of packing the Senate from the members of its paid teaching staff the remedy is easier and if the Chancellor will only keep his eyes open, then this thirty per cent of the packing can be immediately removed.

I must not be misunderstood. In the ordinary circumstances the presence in the Senate of eminent scholars like Prof. D. R. Bhandarkar or Dr. Stephen should be welcome, but the circumstances of the Calcutta University are extraordinary. The Senate has persistently maladministered the funds at its disposal with the result that it stands on the verge of bankruptcy, it has imposed a deficit budget year after year in order to force the Government to provide funds for its policy of waste. Therefore it has become necessary to eliminate such members of the Senate as are identified with a party to whom such maladministration is due and whose tactics are always discreditable. While the reduction of the nominated members of the Senate, who are paid members of the teaching staff of the Calcutta University, is a comparatively easier matter, the elimination of weak or selfish members is extremely difficult. It appears now that the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee was not only a master of Mathematics and Law but also of early Georgian methods of manipulating votes by means of benefices, pensions and contracts. It is simply by such purchase of votes, that Sir Ashutosh packed the Senate with the echoes of his own voice, and his tradition has been kept up by his successors. I consider that the time has now arrived when the Government ought to help the people of Bengal to reform the University by exercising its power of nomination by sending only such members to the Senate as are pledged to reform and constitutionally free from lethargy. The task may be difficult, but it is not altogether impossible.

The only and better alternative is to change the constitution of the University of Calcutta by fresh legislation. The necessity of fresh legislation will be apparent from the fact that the election of ten senators by the Registered Graduates of tbe University has become a sham and farce. The registered graduates of the Calcutta University have become a pocket borough. The calendar of the University of Calcutta for the years 1924 and 1925 provides us with a list of graduates at page 925. It is entitled “List of Registered Graduates who paid their annual subscriptions for the year 1924-25 corrected up to 30th September 1924.” With the exception of a few men such as Mr. Gopaldas Chowdhury or Puran Chand Nahar and several others, this list is composed entirely of examiners, paper setters and others who obtain remuneration in some form from the University of Calcutta. Even then the list contains only 102 names. According to the University Act, as it stands at present, these 102 men represent thousands of Graduates of Calcutta University simply because trey have continued to pay the subscription of Rs. 10 per annum. No move has been made by the party in power in the Calcutta University to increase the number of the Registered Graduates simply because an electorate of 102 men is very easy to manipulate and they can impose their own conditions on people who expect a continuation of remunerations paid to them. 102 graduates therefore elect ten members of the Senate and aid in the packing of the party in power.

Let us now go back to the second factor of the Calcutta University, the Faculties. The Faculty of Art for the year 1924, as printed at pages 9-10 of the Calendar, shows that there were 63 members of this Faculty in this year among whom there were at least 21 members of the paid teaching staff of the University. Besides these there were 11 interested members whose votes are always at the command of the party in power and therefore there is always an absolute majority at the disposal of the dynasty of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee. From the Faculties I proceed to an analysis of the Board of Studies, because these Boards are also important factors in the University. These Boards have also been packed with paid and interested members;—

A. Mr. Rama Prosad Mukherjee, the eldest son of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, who passed his Matriculation Examination in 1911 or 1912, is a member of the Boards in English, Sanskrit, Sanskritic languages.

B. Mr. Shyama Prosad Mukherjee, another son of Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee, is a member of the Boards in English, Sanskrit, Sanskritic languages and Political Economy and Political Philosophy.

C. Mr. Promotha Nath Banerjee M A. B.L. is a member of the Boards in Sanskrit, Political Economy and Political Philosophy and History. He is a son-in law of the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee.

D. Prof. D. R. Bhandarkar is a member of the Boards in Sanskrit, Sanskritic languages, History and Mental and Moral Philosophy.

E. Dr. H. Stephen is a member of the Boards in English, Greek, Latin, etc., Hebrew and Mental and Moral Philosophy.

F. Mr. Jnanranjan Banerjee is a member of the Boards in English, Sanskritic langueges and Mental and Moral Philosophy. G. Dr. Dineschandra Sen is a member of the Boards in Sanskritic languages and History.

H. Mr. H. Khudabux is a member of the Boards in Arabic, Persian and Urdu; Greek, Latin, &c.; and History.

All of these members are either whole-time or part-time paid lecturers in the Calcutta University. Among interested members I must mention the name of Mr. Adhar Chandra Mukherjee, for a long time a monopolist in a certain department in the Calcutta University, who is a member of the Board of Studies in Sanskrit (!), Sanskritic lauguages, History, Political Economy and Political Philosophy.

It is apparent, therefore, that the paid members of the teaching staff of the University of Calcutta predominate in all Boards of Studies. According to paragraph 4 Chapter V of the printed Regulations, “No member shall belong to more than five Boards.” According to this rule, Mr. Shyama Prosad Mukherjse, Dr. Stephen, Dr. Bhandarkar and Mr. Adhar Chandra Mukherjee are members of four Boards and Mr. Rama Prosad Mukherjee, Mr. Promotha Nath Benerjee, Mr. J. R. Banerjee. Jr. Dines Chandra Sen are members of three Boards only. Let us now proceed to analyse the constitution of a single Board, that in History. In 1924-25, this Board contained 11 members, out of whom 6 were paid servants of the University.

(1) Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar, President.
(2) Dr. Dines Chandra Sen.
(3) Mr. S. Khudabux.
(4) Dr. W. S. Urquhart.
(5) Mr. Promatha Nath Benerjee
(6) Dr. Promatha Nath Banerjea.

The constitution of the syndicate for the year 1924-25 is also exactly similar. According to the regulations, the Syndicate consists of;—

(1) The Vice-Chancellor, ex-officio,
(2) The Director of Public Instruction, ex-officio.
(3)-(6) Four persons selected by the Senate.
(7)-(10) Four persons elected by the Faculty of Arts.
(11)-(12) Two elected by the Faculty of Science,
(13)-(14) Two elected by the Faculty of Law.
(15)-(16) Two elected by the Faculty of Medicine.
(17) One elected by the Faculty of Engineering.

In 1924-25 at least ten out of these 17 members were paid servants of the Calcutta University and thus constituted an absolute majority against which the Vice-Chancellor and other independent members are absolutely powerless. These ten gentlemen are;—

(1) Mr. Heramba Chandra Moitra.
(2) Dr. W. S. Urquhart.
(3) Dr. Promatha Nath Banerjea.
(4) Mr. Jnanranjan Banerjee.
(5) Mr. Monmotha Nath Ray.
(6) Mr. Promatha Nath Banerjee.
(7) Mr. Shyama Prosad Mukherjee.
(8) Dr. Bruhl.
(9) Mr. Rama Prosad Mukherjee.
(10) Mr. Biraj Mohan Mazumdar.

The Syndicate is the ultimate Executive authority in the University and the paid majority in it proves that the present constitution of the Calcutta University is rotten to the core. It should also be borne in mind that two sons and a son-in-law of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee are present everywhere. They have divided the Boards of Studies between themselves and with the exception of one or two, one of them is present in all other Boards of Studies.

Necessary Reforms

Having acquired a monopoly in all different constituent parts of the University, the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee and his successors in power have opposed every proposal of reform by all the means they could devise. It is evident that the real reform of the Calcutta University can only be made by drastic legislative enactment. The right of election of the members of the Senate by registered graduates must not be restricted to 102 people out of thousands. The spirit of the Act of 1904 can be maintained by reducing the annual subscription of Rs. 10 to Rs. 2. The majority of the graduates of the Calcutta University are poor teachers whose average income does not exceed fifty rupees a month. It is impossible for them to take an interest in the affairs of the Calcutta University by paying one-sixtieth part of their average annual income. It would be much better to abolish election by the registered graduates and to make at least 50 per cent of the members of the Senate returnable by graduates of seven years standing. The remainder should be divided equally between Government nomination and election by the Faculties. In this way the danger of coaxed nomination by the party in power and the manipulation of pocket boroughs can be very easily avoided. The introduction of an equal number of outsiders, specialists in a particular subject along with members of the paid teaching staff of the University must be insisted on as a preliminary measure in the election of Faculties and of the Syndicate.

The attempts of the late Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee to frustrate fresh legislation in Bengal for the reform of the Calcutta University are still fresh in our mind. Assam forms a small fraction of the jurisdiction of the Calcutta University and Assam was made to play a very prominent part in the opposition to the proposed legislative reform. The jurisdiction of the Calcutta University is the biggest stumbling block at present in the way of its reform. Last year or the year before, a committee was appointed by the Government of India to settle questions about the reform of the Calcutta University by legislative enactments. But for some time past, the case appears to have been shelved. The state of affairs of the Calcutta University, its bankruptcy, degradation of the primary and higher education in the province, manipulation of deficit budgets by the party in power, all point in one direction, e.g., the immediate necessity of a legislative enactment for its reform. If it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Legislative Council of Bengal, then it should be taken up at once by the Legislative Assembly. The party in power" know that their life depends upon the existence of the corrupt boroughs and the system of manipulation of nominations, their ability to pack the Boards of Studies and the Syndicate with their paid men or men whose interests are bound up with their own existence. If education is to be reformed in Bengal, then fresh legislation about the Calcutta University is absolutely and immediately necessary.