Published: 24th November 2020
Anna University VC M K Surappa on corruption charges: I am being crucified for standing by the truth
Professor M K Surappa is currently facing a probe on grounds of corruption. There are ongoing protests seeking his resignation and suspension
Earlier in November, Stanford University released its list of top scientists across the world, of which, two per cent were from India. Of the few Indians who made it to the list was Dr M K Surappa, the current Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, Chennai. However, this news wasn't good enough to cheer Surappa up, as he is currently caught in the midst of a corruption row.
A career academic who spent his time at eminent institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and then the Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar, the allegations levelled against him have polarised public opinion — among students and academics. Those who know his have, almost immediate, rubbished the charged as frivolous, whilst the Tamil Nadu government saw fit to release a two-page-long list of offences that will have him probed for — appointing a Retired Judge from the Madras High Court to oversee the enquiry.
Why have things been so rocky? While initially, he got into a tiff with the state government, which opposed Surappa's proposal to procure an Institute of Eminence (IoE) tag for the university by approaching the centre for funding, the TN government, a few weeks ago had ordered a probe against him, alleging claims of corruption and favouritism. This was followed by politicians and others seeking his resignation and him being sent threatening mails.
In a quick conversation with EdexLive, he spoke to us about the need for an IoE status, the corruption charges and how the situation has affected him as a person.
Is an IoE status necessary for Anna University?
Universities these days have to be research-intensive and focus on a higher order of teaching. The curriculum must be modern and should be clubbed with innovation and experience. These are required for a university to excel and make an impact through research, innovations and start-up. For that, you need a good ecosystem in universities including a physical, academic and living environment that is conducive. We need to have a free exchange of students and faculty. Students must get the opportunity to participate in international conferences. However, a state university like ours does not have enough funding to facilitate all this. An IOE status allows funds for these to make a bigger impact. It is very crucial for us. This is a very unique opportunity for a university like ours which has made impacts in the past and had diversified its portfolio. We have plenty of talented students and I want to provide them with the right opportunities.
In your opinion, what does Anna university lack right now?
The university doesn't lack anything, but it has a scope for improvement. We have to improve significantly to reach world-class standards. We need modern equipment, facilities, chemicals, lab space and interactions.
If the IoE status is this beneficial, why is it opposed by many?
I don't know. This (Tamil Nadu) government didn't accept the offer for reasons I don't know. They cited that there will be a change in the reservation status. But that was not going to go away. Despite all our efforts to convince the people, they used it as a weapon against me.
The past few weeks have been rough. You have had a corruption probe, there were threats and people are protesting against you. How is it affecting you?
I am clear in my conscience, duties and passion. However, these incidents do affect me. This is not called for for a person of my standing. In the pre-independence era, a lot of patriots were jailed by the British colonials. Now, even 75 years after Independence, someone like me who stood by the truth and tried to evade corruption has been crucified. This is shocking, considering that it is happening in a democracy. It, in fact, pains me. If I am not being truthful, everyone has a chance to persecute me. But I stand for unquestionable truth. Society should understand that and help me take the country forward.