Tuesday, 21 June 2016

CSDS Saga Part 4

How Left Citadel CSDS Sabotages Rules of Discipline
53-year-old Public Funded Organizations Still Doesn’t Have Clear Rules for Its Administration

The founding fathers of Delhi based CSDS ( Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) at least had the self confidence to openly admit to the world that they did not believe in externally imposed discipline and that they envisaged CSDS to be a place where people had freedom to choose not only their working schedules work but also be free to determine the content, quantity and quality of their academic output.

However, once the old generation began to retire or pass away, the old order had to give way to new. Unfortunately, most of the new recruits saw the job at CSDS as just another job—with just one big advantage—the institution has virtually no rules to enforce discipline of attendance or academic output. As the old freedoms began to be widely misused, the seniors or “Uncles”-- as they began to be derisively referred to by the younger entrants—began cautious attempts to make the CSDS faculty accept some minimal rules for ensuring basic discipline and accountability. Since three of the “Uncles” became members of the Governing Board after retirement, they began to push the faculty through Board meetings. Coincidentally, this process of making and sabotaging rules began in 2001, the year I returned to CSDS as full professor after two long stints in 1990’s as Visiting Fellow.

At the insistence of the Board of Governors, in 2001 the first ever Committee of the faculty was appointed to draft the Rules and Regulations for the Centre. The following account based on the Minutes of various faculty and Board meetings over the years reveals how through a clever sleight of hand, obfuscation and delay tactics, the Ruling Coterie of CSDS managed to evade accepting not just those rules and regulations which are applicable to all public funded educational institutions but even the exceedingly generous rules proposed/adopted by the B.O.G. 
To start with they made a pretense of taking on the exercise seriously. The Minutes of a meeting held on 26th July 2002 record as follows:
On behalf of the Service Rules Committee, Aditya Nigam, its convenor gave a brief idea of the progress of the Committee’s work during two rounds of its meetings held so far.  The Committee expressed confidence that a draft of service rules will be ready for circulation among the Faculty by 20 September 2002 for wider discussion and finalization.”

The Minutes of meeting held on 29th July 2002 record as follows:-
The Director urging the need to observe settled procedures for availing leave, volunteered to circulate leave entitlement and rules.  Further to facilitate the writing of periodic academic reports, it was agreed that the individual Faculty member would fill-in a form (being prepared by Aditya Nigam) indicating his or her Academic activities, and bring it during the monthly meetings.”

Needless to say the above-mentioned “agreement” was never implemented. The issue of rules came up again in the Minutes of meeting held on 13th September 2002:-
It was decided that the Committee for Rules and Regulations should circulate a draft by 25th September in order that it can be taken up for discussion on 30th September.”

The Minutes of meeting held on 4th July 2003 record as follows:-
“The Director emphasized that even though we are attempting to formulate rules and norms to serve as guidelines for the effective functioning of the Centre during its phase of expansion, we need to ensure that we do not end up becoming too formal in our functioning.  The Centre has so far functioned in an informal manner as a collective and we should try to retain the positive spirit behind this manner of functioning.”

The above is an open admission that CSDS lacks formal, transparent rules and therefore it has been functioning as per the whims and fancies of the Coterie that has arrogated to itself the right to decide and speak on behalf of the institution. The Minutes of meeting held on 25th July 2003 make yet another admission:-
“…Even though faculty members were allowed flexible work timings, it was reiterated that care should be taken that members are present at the Centre for regular hours or they take leave or inform the Administrative Officer in the event of an absence.”

The wording in the abovementioned is noteworthy.  It admits that there is no requirement for prior leave applications.  The Director has repeated time and again that a mere SMS to the Administrative Officer is considered more than adequate.  But even this little courtesy is not observed as a matter of regular practice.  Appeals to inform the A.O. were rarely heeded because they were not backed by any disciplinary action against habitual absentees.  The Minutes of a meeting held on 26th September 2003 again note the following decision regarding “Rules”:-
 “The Rules and Regulations of the Centre need to be finalized.  It was agreed that the draft document should be circulated amongst faculty members and a legal expert for comments before a final deliberation on it.”

All this drama was being enacted because the Board of Governors (B.O.G.) began to insist that some minimal discipline be observed.  The Minutes of meeting held on 28th May 2004 state the following:-
“The faculty to meet on Sunday 7 August 2004 to finalize the Rules and Regulations of the Centre on the basis of the draft prepared by the rules and regulations committee….”

To the best of my knowledge the proposed meeting of 7th August 2004 never took place and the callousness regarding the lack of Rules and Regulations continued to plague the Centre.  Frustrated at the willful inaction by the Director and CSDS faculty in formulating required Rules and Regulations, on 29th August 2005 the Board of Governors (B.O.G.) of CSDS appointed a two member Committee for that purpose.  The Minutes of the meeting of the Faculty held on 29th August 2005 record this decision:-
Committee consisting of Yogendra Yadav and Ghanshyam Shah constituted by the Board to look into the Centre’s Rules and Regulations started its work.  Yogendra Yadav sought suggestions from the faculty in this regard”. 

However, the inclusion of faculty member Yogendra Yadav in the “Rules and Regulation Committee” set Aditya Nigam on a permanent collision course with Yogendra Yadav because the two represented rival power groups at CSDS.  This resulted in a highly polarized situation and regular tug of wars until such time as Yogendra Yadav went on indefinite leave from the Centre in 2013, resulting in total monopoly of the current Ruling Coterie.

Though Yogendra Yadav and Ghanshyam Shah managed to prepare the Rules and Regulations within a year, the other domineering members ensured that enforcement of these Rules was sabotaged.  Therefore, the issue kept cropping up in faculty meetings as and when the Board of Governors asked for an update on the issue.  To quote the Minutes of the Board Meeting held on 31 October 2005:-
“Yogendra Yadav gave a brief on the CSDS Rules and Regulations Committee's work.  It was agreed that Yogendra Yadav, Aditya Nigam and the Director meet to discuss and formulate provisions concerning such matters as Grievance mechanism, composition and functions of Faculty Committees, professional consultations/fees received by the faculty, duty leave, sabbatical etc.. It was suggested that someone with professional legal competence be entrusted the task of drawing a final draft free of technical consistencies, ambiguities etc. The Faculty should then discuss the draft before presenting it again to the Board for approval.”

From the Minutes of the Faculty Meeting held on 29 December 2005:-
Director briefed the members about the following decisions/suggestions discussed in the Board meeting of 26th November:
a) Final draft of the CSDS Rules and Regulations, CSDS designations and Research Council be presented to the board at its next meeting.
b) To facilitate the finalization of all these three draft documents a committee consisting of Aditya Nigam, Ravi Sundaram and Rajeev Bhargava is constituted.           

With Aditya Nigam again back in the saddle, the process of derailing finalization of rules and regulations began all over again and the farce of discussing it sporadically in faculty meetings continued for years on end. The issue kept cropping up in Board meetings only to be cast into oblivion the moment the pressure was let off.

For reasons of brevity, I am skipping the intervening years and would like to bring attention to the Minutes of Faculty Meeting dated  7th  April 2011 which, inter alia,  record as follows on this issue:-
 “The Director informed the faculty that this emergency meeting has been convened for discussing the CSDS rules as it should be sent to the Board members very soon….”
“….The director wants a separate faculty meeting to discuss issues such as institutional presence, self-evaluation by the faculty on their work and whether to consider political and public work of the faculty as academic work.”

This clearly indicates that the Board of Governors were getting impatient with the faculty’s determined resistance to accepting even minimal rules.  Hence the need for an “emergency” meeting under pressure from the B.O.G.  It also affirms that the matter of “institutional presence” had not been sorted out nor any method of academic evaluation put in place. In short, everybody continued to get away with doing what they pleased, including those who do pretty much nothing.

Further, the Minutes of Faculty Meeting held on 3rd February 2011, again, recorded the casual attitude of faculty members towards attendance and the habit of absenting themselves without applying for leave:
“Director also pointed out that sometimes faculty members are absent from centre without any information. When any member is availing leave/on official duty should inform the administrative officer.  The information should be available with the office that for which reason they are not available.”

But it is a gross understatement to say that the faculty members absented only “sometimes” without informing the Centre.  As a matter of fact, they did it much too often.  This is an open admission that faculty members of CSDS remain absent without the courtesy of informing the Centre much less seek prior permission for leave. I was among the few who repeatedly insisted that a proper attendance system be introduced as in all public funded institutions.  But the proposal was not only shot down with disdain but also not recorded in the Minutes.  The casual attitude of CSDS Directors in this regard is evident from the fact that no one was ever issued a show-cause notice in this regard, no matter how infrequently they showed up at CSDS nor when they disappeared for long periods without informing the Centre.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Minutes of B.O.G. dated November 28, 2000 had recorded that “Total Casual Leave granted shall not exceed eight days in an academic year.”  It further states, “Earned leave [which incidentally is encashable on retirement] shall not accumulate beyond 300 days.  However, these categories appear ridiculously redundant in the situation prevailing at CSDS where there is no system of marking attendance.  When one is free to absent oneself for days, weeks or months on end without applying for leave, categories such as “casual leave” and “earned leave” have no meaning. Thus, the Minutes of 14th December 2010 again record the following:
“The director expressed concern about the faculty absence in the CSDS events.”

If faculty members do not bother to even attend special events of the Centre, one can well imagine their lack of seriousness about daily attendance.

The Minutes of Faculty Meeting held on 21 April 2011 again record the absence of any method or criteria for self evaluation or evaluation by peer group or seniors in the following words:
“The Faculty suggested that there should be clear guidelines for reviewing the applications for the positions from outsiders and from existing faculty applying for a higher position.  There should be some kind of procedures.  There are lot of doubts in the minds of all faculty members.  Who makes the decision on the process?  Is the Faculty Standing Committee can judge the applicants? What is the best process? Can the faculty member judge the other faculty member? Earlier there was a peer review process, but it was not successful.  What should be the demands for the new members, for the second level positions and what for the Professor’s level?  What is really expected by the Centre as a whole?  What kinds of work are considered academic?  How the ongoing academic activities be evaluated?  There should be clarity on selection criteria which should be publicized.”(Quoted verbatim, grammatical mistakes in the original)

This amounts to an open admission that there are no established norms or procedures for assessment of the work being done at the Centre.  The ICSSR has also been exceedingly lax in this matter.  The last time it made a pretense of academic audit was in 2005.  The non-seriousness of the exercise can be gauged from the fact that I don’t even remember it took place because no one really checked what each of us had been doing in preceding years.  Once you are “in” you can go upto your retirement without doing very much or even nothing at all.  That is why even faculty members have “doubts” about what is going on at CSDS.  If so much is being admitted in the Minutes of faculty meetings – where the actual offenders have a strong voice, one can well imagine the actual state of affairs.

Ultimately, after more than ten years of procrastination in November 2011, the Governing Board insisted on finalizing a set of “Rules & Regulations”.   These include the following list of reasons for which leave can be granted:
a) Casual leave; b) Compensatory leave; c) Earned leave; d) Academic leave; 
e) Extraordinary leave; f) Parental leave; g) Child care leave; h) Medical leave
i) Leave not due

It is noteworthy that while listing various heads under which leave can be availed, the B.O.G. adopted “Rules” do not set any norm regarding the minimum number of days in a year that a faculty member must be present at the CSDS.  Therefore, there is official sanction to faculty members remaining absent from the institution for indefinite periods on one pretext or the other.  Even though the amount of leave granted under these rules errs on the side of generosity, yet they have not been observed with any modicum of seriousness.  It needs reiterating that, in the absence of any system of marking attendance, there is no way of affirming how many days in a year faculty members actually show up at CSDS.  Nor has the 8 hour working day specified in the “Rules” approved by the Board ever been enforced at CSDS.  Not surprisingly, faculty members come as and when they please, for as few or long hours as they please. 

Most revealing of all, as per Service Rules, the prescribed upper limit of leave provided under the above mentioned categories can be extended by the director in consultation with the Faculty Standing Committee leaving ground for arbitrary favours to select few and sanctifying prolonged absenteeism with official approval. 

Ironically, even though there is no system of recording how many days in a year and for how many hours in a day a particular faculty member attends the Centre, yet CSDS follows the leave encashment provision applicable in Central and other universities.  Thus, even those who attend the Centre only fitfully can get lakhs of rupees at the time of retirement by way of leave encashment for up to 300 days simply because there is no system to check how often a faculty member absented without applying for leave

The Fate of ‘8 Hours a Day, Five Day Working Week’ Rule
The most important part of this document is Rule 50(ii).  It reads: “All members of the faculty are expected in the usual course to be present on all working days except or otherwise with prior intimation to the Director.” This mandates a five-day working week, unless formal leave has been taken. This had to be sabotaged at all costs because CSDS Coterie has come to believe that such demands can only be made of lower species—namely the Class IV, Class III and admin staff—the modern day Shudras, and not the high and mighty intellectuals that constitute the faculty.

In fact, it has become a common practice for even visiting scholars or short-term fellowship holders not to show up for weeks or months on end without informing the CSDS.   Similarly, new faculty members begin to adopt the same pattern of irresponsibility when they realize that there is no system for keeping a check on them. Even those who are given PhD or other fellowships by the CSDS do not have any attendance requirement. Nor is any record maintained of the work they actually deliver.

Not surprisingly the Minutes of Faculty meeting of April 25, 2015 once again record:
The Director expressed his concern about non-participation of many visiting faculty in the academic activities of CSDS.  He also expressed his concern about the thin presence of regular faculty members in the academic activities of CSDS.”

Such lack of interest of CSDS faculty in the activities of their own institution being recorded in official meetings year after year raised the inevitable question: Is it because the activities are not worthy of much interest?

Minutes of September 20, 2014 meeting record as follows:
“It was suggested by “some members of the Board that the Centre should not allow the Visiting Fellows to take break or long leave as the visiting fellowships are offered for a fixed term”. 

This confirms my charge that Visiting Fellows often don’t find the time to “Visit” the Centre often enough even while drawing handsome salaries from the institution.  Last year, under pressure from the B.O.G. a system of making fellowship holders give one presentation in a year was introduced.  But this too lacks a mechanism for evaluating the academic worth of the presentation. All you get are polite oral comments by way of feedback, which the person concerned may or may not heed at all.

At the time of approving rules for “Academic Leave” at the behest of the Board, it was forcefully suggested by certain members of the Board including the Member Secretary of ICSSR, that the rules operational in other ICSSR funded research institutions (such as Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi University) be applied to the CSDS.  This was resisted and rejected with determination. 

Such “flexibility has enabled the habitual jetsetters to find on one pretext or the other to go abroad while drawing emoluments at the Centre, thus earning double or maybe triple incomes.  For instance, the previous director remained abroad for large part of his seven year tenure as head of the institution. On one occasion he was away ten months at a stretch leaving the administration under charge of officiating directors.  So frequent were his foreign jaunts, even by the lax standards of CSDS that he was jokingly referred to as a “Visiting Director”. 

No Account of Extra Incomes From outside Assignments
Yet another issue that has defied regulation is pertaining to extra income from consultancies and foreign assignments that faculty members routinely undertake.  They are not required to take prior permission for taking on remunerative consultancies or teaching assignments abroad.  Nor are they expected to disclose the extra income they earn from such assignments, leave alone share a part of the extra income with the parent institution.  There have been several instances whereby faculty members went away for several months on highly paid teaching assignments abroad while drawing full salary from the Centre.  It is only in 2011 that the Board insisted that in case a person is getting full salary abroad in foreign currency, she/he cannot draw salary at CSDS for that period. But there is no such restriction on getting hefty honorariums for lectures abroad – which can amount to more than the salary.  It is also common practice for faculty members to claim that the remuneration given to them during their foreign assignment is not “adequate”, therefore they should continue getting half their salary at CSDS.  The issue of sharing a part of extra income with CSDS has been raised time and again in faculty meetings as well as in Board meetings but the Ruling Coterie manages to sabotage any such requirement even though the extra income is earned at the cost of CSDS and the public exchequer.

In this regard, the Minutes of Meeting of the Board of Governors held on 26th November 2011 recorded as under:-
“7.6 The Director agreed that the Board’s suggestion of including a section in the Rules on extra earnings by the permanent staff through other assignments/consultancies will be done after consulting the faculty. The Board suggested that if a permanent staff earns more than Rs 1 lakh per annum, apart from his/her salary, through other outside assignments/consultancies, he or she should take prior permission from the director and 10% of such extra earnings will be given to the Centre”.

Needless to say, the faculty never let the above mentioned Board approved rule be implemented.  Nor has anybody thus far given 10 percent of the extra income from consultancies etc. to the Centre. The issue of enforcement was conveniently shoved under the carpet.

The above account shows how the Board of Governors has been reduced to a hapless body, who begged and pleaded with the faculty for a whole decade to adopt some measure of discipline in the organization.  But they could not ensure the implementation of those Rules even for a day.  This is in large part due to the fact that barring two representatives of ICSSR, all other members of the Board are in effect appointed by the Ruling Coterie of the faculty which not only decides who is to be put on the Board as faculty representatives but also has arrogated to itself the power to decide who all are to be invited from outside CSDS to be part of the Board. Since in the last few years, BJP bashing & Modi demonization is the most valued “academic activity” at CSDS, most members who are invited to the Board of Governors share the Coterie’s pathological aversion to BJP.

Coming back to the filibustering around Rules, in the next part I will describe how the more than generous “Rules” adopted at the behest of the Board began to be undermined and subverted within no time of their adoption through the clever stratagem of appointing yet another Committee to draft “Norms for Self Governance at CSDS.” The pathetic fate of this exercise can be gauged from the fact that though the abovementioned Committee was appointed in 2012, it has not condescended to finalize those norms till date!

To be continued

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