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7 Jun 2017

Student unions to go apolitical - Govt takes cue from Xavier's

TT, June 6: The state government is set to issue an order making students' unions apolitical and empowering a teacher in every institution to handle funds allotted to the union.
The new rules, modelled on the system at St. Xavier's College, will come into force this year across all state-aided colleges and universities.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had in an interview to television channel ABP Ananda in March certified the St. Xavier's model as "good". She had said she would request education minister Partha Chatterjee to consider implementing it in state-aided colleges.
"I think holding elections every year is a waste of energy. I will ask the education minister to find out whether the St. Xavier's model can be adopted," Mamata had said.
The main objective of adopting the St. Xavier's model is to dissociate politics from union activities.
At St. Xavier's, political parties have no role in the union elections. Students decide their planks and draw up their campaign strategies independently.
"Our chief minister had wanted to reform the process and asked me to do the needful. As asked by the chief minister, we have prepared a system based on the St. Xavier's and Lady Brabourne model," the education minister said.
"The system will be implemented this year because the admission process is under way. The new students will start the academic year  with the knowledge that 60 per cent attendance is must for contesting the election."
A notification announcing the revised system will be issued in two-four days.
Father Felix Raj, the principal of St. Xavier's College and vice-chancellor of St. Xavier's University, said he had suggested the Xavier's model to the chief minister a year ago.
"The state government had appointed an education committee which recommended the St. Xavier's model of election. We had presented it to the chief minister a year ago. I had requested that this be implemented to ensure peaceful academic and research-oriented environment (on the campuses). I believe our students are mature and can decide for themselves without interference from outside. The management and the authorities also have to be open enough to encourage dialogue with the students. This will ensure that the institutions function very well," Father Felix Raj said.
The principals of several state-aided colleges welcomed the move but cautioned that the stated objective of the new system would remain elusive if Trinamul Congress leaders were allowed to "indirectly" intervene in the union affairs.
"The colleges can stop local leaders from entering the premises. But what can the authorities do if the leaders camp just outside the college gate and try to call the shots from there?" the principal of a central Calcutta college wondered.
The students' unions in over 90 per cent of the 540-odd colleges and universities in Bengal are controlled by Trinamul.
In the new system, a teacher will hold the post of treasurer of the union. "The post will be held by a teacher because the government does not want students to handle the money," an official in the higher education department said.
Also in the new system, the union of a big college will have no more than 10 office-bearers. For a not-so-big college, the limit is seven.

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