By Mukesh Kumar Sinha
The premier media institution, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), is in turmoil. Its director general got a shock as at the last minute the ministry of information and broadcasting asked him to cancel a seminar to set up national university.
The seminar was planned for March 4.
The ministry was reportedly annoyed with the DG for a reported scam of Rs 72 crore granted to it by the UPA government to set up an international media university and continuous fall in standards. DG Sunit Tandon and the then chairman Raghu Menon were given the allocation for setting up the university reportedly in 2010.
The IIMC staff and faculty are carrying on a virulent campaign for immediate removal of Tandon, who was not given extension even by the UPA government, which appointed him.
According to reports, the money for university released in two tranches was utilized to build one floor with tin shed, a luxury bathroom and reportedly some equipment. But no effort was made to set up the university. It was quietly shelved.
The way the fund was audited also reportedly raised eyebrows in the ministry.
The ministry reportedly has taken serious note the way it was misled to believe that the concept of the university was a new idea.
The ministry has found that the DG’s term expired in 2012 and from a letter signed by Under Secretary Manmeet Kaur dated Nov 15, 2012, it was stated that Tandon “will hold the current charge of DG, IIMC till further orders”. Questions are being raised over Tandon’s stewardship of this institution and its legality. According to sources, a man working “on till further orders” do not have legal or moral authority to take decisions.
Tandon had tried to “substitute” the university, sources say, with a two-year “advanced” diploma, which had no recognition and equivalence and was a mere extension of its present one-year course. It was severely opposed by the faculty, who told the DG that being a government-funded institution they could not be a party to the unethical practice. It was then shelved.
Meanwhile, the IIMC faculty and staff have recently complained to the ministry for poorly running the institute and the courses. One faculty of English journalism even complained that the syllabus was severely tampered with and in the last session it was not delivered to the students. He even in a letter made the charge that “the last English Journalism batch was not even taught their full syllabus. This batch of bright students is going to face a crisis”. The letter is critical of the course director: “Why do you run a course with a course director who has no training, either academic or professional with English Journalism or praxis? It will be nice to ask him to write a clear and coherent sentence and speak a coherent lecture at some time.” Similar allegations were leveled against the Hindi journalism course too.
Under Tandon, the IIMC is stated to have suffered severely. Its popularity as a media education centre gone downhill as is evident from the receipt of a mere about 4000 applications for its four regular courses. The number used to be over 10,000 till a few years ago. As per IIMC records for some courses it had 100 per cent placement. It has dwindled to less than 40 per cent as the employers did not find the quality to suit their needs.
The main reason is stated to be its deviation from professionalism that made IIMC courses different to theorization under Tandon. Apart the leadership at other levels also did not show interest in running it as a professional body. The faculty and the staff alleged that at various official levels IIMC was fleeced to cater to their personal and family needs much against the rules.
The staff said the IIMC chairmen in earlier years only had the luxury of an official vehicle that was sent to them if they were coming to office. Veteran journalist Balbir K Punj was one of them, also advertising professional Tara Sinha, then there was Times of India’s managing director Ramesh Chandra. None of them even drew an allowance. Those frugal values no longer hold.
The employees alleged that a reign of terror and repression was unleashed by Tandon. Whosoever raised a valid objection was victimized, harassed and humiliated. Even a former general secretary of the IIMC Staff Association was hounded and action was threatened against him for pointing out improper action, an association ex-office-bearer said. He said that soon after without giving a notice, Tandon cancelled the recognition of the Association.
The office-bearer said, “The media institution that preaches freedom of expression does not practise it at all. In the last week of February a gag order was issued to the staff not to interact or reply to any media query. God save IIMC, the Media and democracy”.
The IIMC was set up in 1965 after a UNESCO-Ford Foundation committee recommended setting up of an apex body to standardize and propagate journalism and communication studies in India. Once it was a pioneer. Now under the present stewardship it is finding it difficult to maintain its set standards.