Change in govt brings contentious Public Universities Act Amendment Bill back in focus

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Following the change in government, a new discussion has begun in university circles across the state – the move’s possible impact on the Maharashtra Public Universities Act Amendment Bill.
The bill, which was passed by the cabinet in December last year under the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government amid strong opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been pending for the Governor’s final nod. The delay had only made the disagreement between the state government and the Governor’s office evident. The formation of search committees for appointment of Vice Chancellors (VCs) of two state universities was also stalled due to the delay.
Many are now hoping that with a possible end to the clash between the state government and the Governor, the stalled process may gain pace. “The amendments are most likely to get overturned as the BJP strongly opposed the bill. It has already decided to bring back the Mumbai Metro carshed to Aarey forest,” said a Mumbai university Senate member.
“This may happen, but universities Act definitely ranks lower in priority list, when compared with Metro carshed,” said a senior official from the SPPU. The official though added that even though change in government may end the clash, it would not automatically translate to faster results as a due process will have to be followed.
Notably, Higher and Technical Education minister from the MVA government, Uday Samant of the Shiv Sena, who earlier promoted the amendments, is now part of the new state government under Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. “But until there is a distribution of ministries in the new government, there won’t be any progress on the bill. But it is definitely something to look forward to now,” said an official from the Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University.
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While current VC’s tenure at Nagpur University is nowhere near completion yet, at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), the VC’s tenure is already over and the administration is now running with “in-charge appointments”. Tenure of Mumbai University VC is almost nearing end.
Due to the friction between the state government and the Governor, the formation of the VC search committee was stuck for Mumbai as well as Pune universities. The Governor’s office had initiated the process as per the old practice and asked varsities to appoint their members on three-member search committees. Other two members would include a Governor nominee who would be a retired judge and a state government representative. But the state government had yet not appointed its representative on the committee while waiting for clarity from the Governor’s office on the amendments.
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