Published: 25th January 2022
VBU Controversy: Why is the VC being accused of misusing funds marked for the famous Poush Mela?
The Santiniketan Trust, which organises the Poush Mela, was founded by Debendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore's father
The Visva-Bharati University is in the eye of another controversy-fuelled storm. This time the administration is being accused of issuing illegal tenders and misappropriating funds collected as security deposits from stall owners during Poush Mela 2019. The VBU Faculty Association has also registered their protest on the issue and written to the PM and the Education Ministry about it.
The complaints are manifold. The Santiniketan Trust, which organises the Poush Mela, was founded by Debendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore's father. In 2012, the trust norms were revised and the trustees included three lifetime members and named the Vice-Chancellor as the ex-officio Chairman of the trust. "But when Dr Bidyut Chakrabarty joined as the VC, he said that he had studied the rules and figured out that the VC taking over the Santiniketan Trust is just a convention and he did not want to take over the duties of conducting the Poush Mela," said a senior professor and a member of the VBUFA.
What went wrong? VBU set up an account to keep the funds collected from the stall owners as they couldn't be kept in the VBU account. "The VC, Accounts Officer Sanjoy Ghosh and one of the lifetime members of the Santiniketan Trust are there. Why set up a different account?" questioned a member. "Moreover, there is no such post as Nodal Officer. But the Santiniketan Trust asked for tenders in a letter signed by Sanjoy Ghosh as the Nodal Officer. The tender was called for fencing and putting up a boundary wall of the Visva-Bharati Mela ground. But interestingly, The ground belongs to VBU and not the trust. How did the trust call for tenders then? This is illegal. And the tender was swiftly removed from the website. But where did they find the money to build the wall? The suspicion is that they used the security deposit from the stall owners," said the professor.
The Kabiguru Handicrafts Unnyan Samity, a workers group, wrote to the Registrar and the Executive Council of VBU to complain about the issue. "This is the worst example of misuse of power by the Vice-Chancellor of Viva-Bharati who is not even the legitimate authority of the present Santiniketan Trust. It is the Santiniketan Trust and not the Visva-Bharati University that conducts the Poush Mela," said Aminul Huda, the Secretary of the group. "VBU sublets the so-called Poush Mela ground for four days to Santiniketan Trust as per tradition and has no right to collect the rent or security money from any seller or to confiscate their security money under any established law and provisions of Visva-Bharati Act and Statute," said Huda.
In the letter to the EC, the Kabiguru Handicrafts Unnyan Samity said that the VC and his administration are conducting unethical and illegal transactions in spite of holding a public office. "Opening of a personal account (A/C no. 38923213012) at the SBI Santiniketan Branch and illegally depositing the security money of the sellers in that account without bringing this in the purview of audit is nothing but illegal," noted the letter.