Distance Learning

Distance schooling mess

Recently Professor NR Madhava Menon, the founding Vice-Chancellor (VC) of my alma mater, the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata and one of the founders of the countrywide regulation college (NLU) challenge, handed away.
Few understand that Professor Menon becomesecome the writer of current policies governing open and distance mastering (ODL) in India. Tragically, this legacy is being tarnished at NUJS, which has been a continual violator of ODL guidelines of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and University Grants Commission (UGC) since 2008.
The regulatory framework
ODL in India received impetus with the establishment of IGNOU in 1985.
For almost three many years after that, IGNOU had the dual role of functioning as an Open University and additionally discharging the role of the countrywide regulator of ODL courses via its Distance Education Council (DEC).
Under the ‘Guidelines of DEC on Minimum Requirements for Recognition of ODL Institutions’ (DEC Guidelines), first published in 2006, universities were required to secure mandatory approvals to offer ODL and for every of the ODL guides that have been to be run. These DEC Guidelines were compulsorily relevant on all Universities, in terms of the Supreme Court’s 2009 judgement in Annamalai.
Following Supreme Court’s judgments in Yashpal and Annamalai, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in August 2010 constituted the Professor NR Madhava Menon Committee to advise measures for robust law of ODL.
In December 2012, UGC turned into appointed the countrywide regulator of ODL (nontechnical publications). To effectuate this, IGNOU’s DEC was dissolved, and its regulatory functions have been transferred to UGC’s Distance Education Bureau (DEB). The DEB followed the DEC Guidelines to avoid disruptions during the transition phase.
In 2016, the DEB suggested that each one online ODL publications had been being run without its permission and these guides cannot be run till new regulations are formulated. Later, the UGC notified the UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017, and the UGC (Online Courses or Programmes) Regulations, 2018 (Online Regulations).
Recently, DEB’s Right to Information (RTI) response dated sixteen.04.2019 showed that no universities had been granted permission to run any on-line courses until the Online Regulations got here into impact in July 2018.
ODL publications run by NUJS
NUJS in no way had any approvals from the erstwhile IGNOU DEC or the UGC DEB for any of the ODL courses, but it continued to run each offline (missing approval) and on-line (blanketly prohibited) ones when you consider that 2008.
When NUJS’ apolitical student frame, the Student Juridical Association (SJA) produced damning proof earlier than the 32nd NUJS Academic Council (AC), the individuals resolved to without delay suspend all such publications. This becomes ultimately ratified by using the 61st NUJS Executive Council (EC), which had Justice Arun Mishra as the then Chancellor’s nominee.
At the 61st EC, the gap education mess has become the not unusual subject matter for three separate inquiries; and the 62nd EC reiterated the ban following the SJA’s intervention and constituted a fourth, committed inquiry into the space training mess, which NUJS is but even to convene.
There is likewise evidence to suggest that one of those allegedly worried, Ms Vaneeta Patnaik is a founding Director in Effulgent Educators LLP, which sought to run a certificates direction in association with NUJS. Interestingly, Ms Patnaik made no disclosures concerning her association with Effulgent Educators LLP to the University at any point in time no matter being a member (both gift and vote casting) of the twenty-ninth AC and the fifty-fifth EC meetings – while the difficulty of her Effulgent Educators LLP was discussed.
This is to be particularly investigated through one of the inquiries as mentioned earlier, as per the 61st EC.
Subsequent (In)motion
Based at the proof provided via the SJA, the 60th and 61st ECs affected an administrative rinse that introduced in a brand new Vice-Chancellor (Acting), Registrar (Acting) and Assistant Registrar (Administration).
To the students it appeared that the Augean stables of NUJS could finally get wiped clean beneath the watch of a venerable, retired judge of Calcutta High Court, Justice (Retd) Amit Talukdar. However, it is now an open secret that the aforesaid EC-instituted inquiries have long gone nowhere.
While NUJS tiptoes around the gap education imbroglio, it faces numerous civil and arbitration suits in the Calcutta and Delhi High Courts. Despite orders from the EC, Professor Anirban Mazumdar, Director, School of Distance and Mass Education (SDME), fobbed off the duty to correspond with distance education college students on spurious “non-public” grounds.
Earlier this year, I had filed four RTI packages to NUJS, along with
one on distance schooling. Mr. Pritwish Saha, the NUJS Public Information Officer (PIO) gave evasive and incomplete solutions.
During followups, the PIO verbally introduced that the response changed into being drafted in session with Registrar (Acting), Ms Sikha Sen and SDME Director, Professor Mazumdar. Aggrieved, I sooner or later filed an enchantment earlier than Registrar Sen. Predictably, Registrar Sen supplied a pretty evasive reaction, against whom I was later constrained to file a complaint.
DEB’s response dated 08.03.2019 to an identical RTI, but, absolutely establishes that NUJS changed into jogging these publications for almost a decade in gross violation of the UGC Act, 1956. Pressed through my RTI applications and the SJA, NUJS released a huge cache of governing our bodies’ information.
These information, previously unavailable, not most effective showed DEB’s response however additionally provided similarly proof to signify that various insiders, along with former Vice-Chancellor Professor Ishwara Bhat; former Registrars (Acting) Dr R Parameshwaran and Dr Sarfaraz A Khan; Professor Mazumdar; Ms Patnaik; and Professor Sandeepa Bhat, were the in all likelihood facilitators.
The aforesaid information (with particular references to various governing our bodies’ mins) were made to be had to the NUJS Chancellor, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the 65th EC in my recent letter.
Reportedly, the 66th EC, in the end, took observe of the proof made available and installation a one-man inquiry below Professor Saikat Maitra, the VC of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology, Kolkata.
Distant hope?
Contrastingly in 2012 while NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad (NALSAR) suffered a similar distance schooling mess, the ensuing cleanup led to NALSAR securing Category I autonomy from the UGC, which has also had an effective impact on its ODL programmes.
NUJS continues to be suffering to even get a NAAC accreditation, thereby making NUJS ineligible to run ODL guides any time soon.
Today, NUJS is confronted with sure ugly realities. There has been a deliberate state of no activity and lively sheltering of the alleged offenders for over a year notwithstanding a damning proof of institutional complicity.
An EC packed with felony luminaries, along with illustration from the Supreme Court, the Calcutta High Court and the State Government has together didn’t put into effect any meaningful motion. And there may be a very actual chance of NUJS losing its UGC affiliation for everyday guides.
Previously, positive universities in West Bengal and engineering faculties someplace else in India are becoming into trouble for non-compliance with ODL norms, inclusive of investigations via the Central Bureau of Investigation that have been initiated by the MHRD. Some universities even needed to be shuttered.
For now, it remains to be seen whether or not NUJS will frustrate or permit Professor Maitra’s inquiry to provoke significant trade.
The author changed into elected President of NUJS’ Student Juridical Association for 2016- 18 and currently works as an Associate at Trilegal, Delhi. The views are private.

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