Kashmir University sends its watchdog journalism department to dogs—Part 3

Srinagar: Reports from MERC give a very disturbing picture of the way affairs of the Centre are run.
While the University easily manages Rs 9.60 lakh a year on Masudi’s illegal appointment, genuine needs of providing infrastructure and modern gadgetry for the students’ training continue to be ignored. A broken down computer lab with broken windows, a non-existent television studio, a third grade radio studio that lacks proper acoustics, decrepit equipment, suffocating classrooms with poor ventilation and now frittering away Rs 9.60 lakh a year on an illegal appointment are some telltale signs of where the University’s priorities lie in providing professional level training to media students at the state’s oldest media training institute.
The building housing MERC was constructed in 2008 at a cost of over Rs 4 crore. Within three years of its construction, the building developed major cracks and its ground floors began to sink because of substandard material used by the University’s construction division. This is also evident from the broken window and door frames and damaged walls of the building. A year ago seepage from the top floors exposed equipment worth crores to risk at the EMMRC housed in the same building.
These issues were raised some time ago with the current VC Prof Talat Ahmad who found it convenient to dismiss it as a “petty issue” and ducked responsibility by adding, “It was constructed before I took over.”
Whatever little equipment the Centre has purchased over the past year also raise serious questions of wrongdoing.
Soon after Masudi took over a year ago he ordered a video camera from a local supplier. This camera was sold to the Centre at around Rs 50, 000 less than its company price of Rs 2.08 lakh. A response to an email from the company revealed that the company does not sell its cameras or any of its other equipment at discounted prices and also warned of buying such cameras from unauthorised outlets or dealers. The company also said it bears no legal or financial responsibility towards purchases of its products made from dealers not authorised by the company.
Expert information on the internet reveals that such discounted cameras sold by unauthorised individuals or firms have their internal critical parts replaced with second hand ones while outside their bodies look as fresh as brand new which is why they are sold at reduced prices. This information also reveals that serious defects begin to show up in such refitted cameras year or so after use. Anybody in television business would normally know it and this shouldn’t have escaped Masudi who touts ‘vast’ experience of television production.
The problem with this purchase is even graver.
Masudi as Coordinator ordered the release of the supplier’s payment without obtaining the mandatory certificate from a technical committee which under rules has to certify the genuineness of any equipment purchased by the University. The payment is released only after a satisfactory certification by this committee. But in this case the supplier happily walked away with his payment without having to bother about the authenticity of the product supplied. Whether the ‘Coordinator’ did it out of ignorance of rules or out of giving undue benefit to the supplier or both is unclear.
Officials in the University’s Audit and Accounts sections said they had no information about this wrongdoing and added it was the duty of the ‘Coordinator’ to ensure rules were followed.
This year also two more similar cameras have been ordered by the Coordinator and from the same supplier at the same reduced prices.
The University rules about open tenders do say that purchases are to be made from the lowest bidder but in this case these rules are invalid as this product comes from a globally known branded company which sells its products at the same price world over. Prices of any product from the company can also easily be cross checked from the internet.
Reports emerging from MERC about how students are treated point to an equally distressing scenario.
Students are unwilling to come on record for fear of victimisation by the department. Reports said the ‘Coordinator’ is extremely student ‘unfriendly’ and behaves like a ‘dictator’ towards the students. Sometime ago he is alleged to have told the students that if they raise any issues against him it would be like “putting your hands in a hornet’s nest.”
“Such an attitude obviously creates an atmosphere of intimidation and fear at a department where students are religiously schooled in the virtues of freedom of expression,” a 4th semester student of MERC told Kashmir Reader.
In a recent incident the Coordinator allegedly abused a student (some say he called the student a ‘bloody liar’) in front of some faculty members and other students.
The situation has come to such a turn that in an unprecedented move in MERC’s 28 year-old history the students have moved a representation to the Chancellor, VC and others seeking Masudi’s removal. Complaining about the policies and “inadequate” qualification of Masudi the representation alleges the department has “turned defunct “under Masudi. Masudi was not available for comment despite repeated attempts by Kashmir Reader to reach him.
Masudi’s term ended on March 22 this year but despite the serious issues concerning his appointment, his poor performance as the head of MERC and students’ complaints his extension is under the active consideration of the VC.–With inputs from sources in and outside KU