Kannur varsity row: Priya Varghese clarifies on low research score

Priya Varghese
Priya Varghese is the wife of K K Ragesh, the private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Priya Varghese, wife of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's private secretary K K Ragesh, has yet again defended her controversial appointment as an associate professor in Kannur University, terming the claims made by her opponents 'mere number games'.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Varghese said the follies in the figures being celebrated as an RTI (Right to Information) reply by media had to be exposed immediately.

She said her research score – calculated on the basis of qualifications such as PhD, publications and seminar presentations – remained way lower than her immediate contestant because the scores were auto-generated by a computed software and not verified by the authorities. However, a TV report quoting sources have challenged her argument. The report said the short-list for the interview was prepared after a committee headed by the pro-vice chancellor examined all the applications and related documents including research papers submitted by the candidates. Of the 10 applicants, six were short-listed. Four applicants were rejected for lack of required qualifications.

Varghese took to social media a day after media reports based on the RTI information, which revealed that her research score was a mere 156 while the second-ranked candidate secured 651, started doing the rounds. The document also shows that she got the maximum marks (32 out of 50) in the personal interview, while the second-ranked candidate scored 30.

Varghese said the research scores mentioned in the document were auto-generated while applying for the post online. The physical verification of the qualification claimed in the application was meant to be conducted on the day of the interview, but it did not happen as the interview also took place online.

She said the huge difference between her score and the candidate who secured second rank was because she had submitted the list of her articles published only in UGC-approved journals in Malayalam.

She has also posted a list of such approvals.

Varghese said the research score is evaluated only for short-listing the candidate. "It is only checked if a candidate has the required score of 75 marks. Apart from that, it is not examined if the additional scores claimed by any candidate is deserving or not. Only after such a verification is done, one can ascertain the validity of the numbers (in the RTI document). So, the figures need not be celebrated so much," she wrote.

She further stated that the allegation of the rules regarding teaching experience being flouted for her appointment has already been proven baseless.

It was alleged that according to UGC regulations, the period of faculty improvement programme could not be considered as teaching experience. However, the University recently received a legal opinion that such an interpretation of the UGC regulations was wrong.

"Since the interview for the post was conducted online, its recordings are available. They could also be sought through an RTI query and telecast on TV channels," Varghese said, besides welcoming such a move as she is confident in her claims.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who is also the chancellor of varsities in the state, has asked the Kannur University Vice-Chancellor for a report on the alleged irregularity in the appointment of Varghese as an associate professor in the department of Malayalam.

In June, Priya Varghese was cleared for appointment as an associate professor of Malayalam at Kannur University, after she was placed first among the six candidates who had appeared for the interview.

The Save University Campaign Committee and a few others have been protesting ever since Varghese's name appeared among the six candidates shortlisted for the interview.

Those opposing her appointment highlighted that the qualification required to become an associate professor included having a PhD, a degree and eight years of teaching experience, which she did not possess.

They also claimed that the three years of leave she had taken to complete her PhD could not be counted as teaching experience.

“Besides, her experience of two years as a student director on deputation at the Kannur University cannot be counted as teaching experience,” they had said.

However, Varghese has all along stood her ground, claiming that she has all the required qualification to be deserving of the post.

With the controversy continuing to grab headlines, Varghese decided not to join the university, despite her appointment being confirmed.

Her deputation was extended by a year. She presently works in a language-related state-run institution.

Now, all eyes are on the Governor to see what he does with the complaints.

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