Sacked ex-Visva-Bharati officiating VC given key role by Bengal govt.

She has been appointed as chief advisor of Bolpur municipality, of which Santiniketan is a part.

Sabujkoli Sen, a former professor at Visva-Bharati who was sacked by the present administration just two days before her retirement in August last, has been appointed as the chief advisor of the Bolpur municipality, of which Santiniketan is a part.

Professor Sen, who was popular in the university as a teacher of philosophy, had served as the officiating Vice Chancellor (VC) in early 2018. Her appointment can be seen as a move by the Trinamool Congress government to counter current VC Bidyut Chakrabarty, who reports to the Central government and who has ruffled many feathers within the campus as well as in Santiniketan ever since he assumed office in November 2018.

“Today, in Santiniketan, only 10% of the area comes under Visva-Bharati [the only Central university in West Bengal] and the remaining 90% under the municipality. My top priority will be to work for the development of this 90% — which includes villages that were under the panchayat until recently — in keeping with the aesthetic values of Rabindranath Tagore,” Professor Sen told The Hindu on Thursday.

“Another priority would be to push for the transfer of the heritage buildings in Visva-Bharati to either the culture ministry or West Bengal’s heritage department. The UGC [University Grants Commission] cannot be expected to pay for the upkeep of the buildings with historical value and the only way to rescue them would be to separate them from the university,” the Santiniketan resident said.

Professor Sen was to retire on August 31, 2020, but on the evening of August 28, she, along with two other senior officials, was dismissed from service, for allegedly tampering with the minutes of a crucial meeting held back in February 2018 with the intention of prolonging her stay as the officiating VC. She officiated as VC till November 9, 2018.

‘Dismissal unfair’

The manner in which the university went about her dismissal had lent some weight to her claim that the move was unfair and the result of personal vendetta. Even though the alleged wrongdoing was committed in February 2018, an enquiry committee was set up only in July 2019 and it was not until November 2019 when she was served with a show-cause notice. She replied to the notice, seeking evidence that she had indeed tampered with the records. The matter then went quiet, but suddenly, in June 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Sen and the two others were suspended and a new committee was set up to probe the alleged wrongdoing. At 10 p.m. on August 28, she received an email that informed her of her dismissal.

“I waited for two years for them to take action against me, but they did nothing. The idea was to humiliate me and to stop my retirement benefits,” Professor Sen, who went to court against her sacking — the matter is still in court, which had ordered payment of her dues — had told this newspaper at the time. But on Thursday, she said she no longer thought of the past and was looking forward to her new role as the chief advisor of the municipality.

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