Amrita Patel, chairperson of National Dairy Development Board, and one-time protege of Varghese Kurien, has been silent till now on the raging controversy over the legality of Kurien's chairmanship at the Institute of Rural Management Anand.
In an exclusive interview with Joydeep Ray on Friday, Patel says that the ongoing legal battles have affected the image of the institute. "There is complete lawlessness in the institute under Kurien's chairmanship," she says.
Three prominent members of the board of governors were stopped from attending the Irma board meeting on Friday. What is your reaction?
This is extremely unfortunate. Hasmukh Shah, chairman of National Institute of Design, Bakul Dholakia, director of Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and Vijay Mahajan, managing director of Basix, are all members of the board. They were prevented from entering the Irma campus on instructions from the chairman.
These three academicians and two others, V Ramachandran, head of the Centre for Development Management and E Abraham, director of St Xavier's Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar, were 'illegally' sent notice by Kurien saying that they all have ceased to be the members of Irma board though their tenures were extended by two years in the February 28 meeting.
Even if the February 28 meeting is not 'valid', as claimed by some people, these members, according to Irma constitution, continue to be the members of the board for six more months.
There is an absolute lack of dignity in the manner in which these people were treated at Irma and it needs to be criticised sharply by all.
But Kurien says that these five members were not authorised to participate in board meeting and that they were outsiders. Were they trying to be in board meeting illegally?
When there are questions about the legality of the chairmanship, how could the people who are legally members of the board be stopped by private guards outside the campus of a premier educational institute?
For the last few months, there is absolute lawlessness in Irma under Kurien's chairmanship and it needs to be stopped now.
It was National Dairy Development Board that funded Irma 25 years ago. Now being the chairman of NDDB, you also play a major role in the functioning of the institute. How will you react to the recent developments in Irma?
It is completely unacceptable when a person functions above the law, and obviously, I also cannot accept the situation. Kurien did not have any power to sack K Prathap Reddy as the director of Irma.
Only the board of governors of the institute can decide the fate of a director and not a person who has been acting against the law.
He also mistreated some of the board members who are the 'who's who' in the country's educational circle. All these need to be handled strictly. The happenings at the institute for last few months have been putting Irma in a bad light and it is time to intercept.
Why did you walkout from the board meeting?
I went to attend the meeting thinking that finally good sense would prevail and well, it did not happen that way. We raised questions as to why those three board members were not allowed inside the campus to attend the meeting. Kurien kept on saying that they have ceased to be the members of the board, which is not right. There was no point being in a board meeting of an institute where a person tries to project himself larger than the organisation. We cannot see all these happening with such a premier institute.
Some of the board members met outside the Irma campus to discuss the future course of action and we are going to take further steps to stop such unlawful activities from happening.
You have worked with Kurien for long a long time. But now why are you opposing him?
Yes, I have worked with him for so many years and he always remained upright and obeyed the law. But it is unfortunate to note that of late, being misled by others, he has been acting against the law.
This is also against the interest of the organisations he has been heading. It is not that I or some people have been talking against him; we are talking against the wrong things happening in an institute of excellence from where students become graduates and serve the country.
With the controversies at Irma, the student don't have a positive impression about the Institute. That is why we are talking against lawlessness and the chairman is supporting the lawlessness in the institute.