Mangalore: Prema D'Souza's Bold Move Exposes Corruption in Research Field
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Dec 6: Associate Profession of Sociology Department Dr Anita Ravishankar’s arrest by Lokayukta police has been a sensational news especially in most local channels, though, newspapers by and large chose to play down the news.
Prema D'Souza’s disclosure and Dr Anita’s arrest by Lokayukta have given rise to many disturbing questions. Dr Anita Ravishankar and her husband Dr Ravishankar of the English Department of the same college have nearly 25 years of service to their credit and are on the UGC payroll. Apart from her teaching responsibilities Anita Ravishankar also doubles up responsibility as the warden of the girl’s hostel, for which, sources say, she is paid additional remuneration.
Blowing the Lid
Prema D'Souza, a second year PhD student with Dr Anita Ravishankar as the guide, has now blown the lid sending shockwaves among the teaching fraternity. While the teaching faculty has expressed dismay over the latest developments, students say it is a common phenomenon, the only difference being this student has been bold enough to come out in the open thus jeopardizing her doctorate degree. Here a question also arises whether Dr Anita would risk taking bribe from students when she was earning so much and considering the fragile class equations dominating university politics.
Daijiworld.com contacted Prema D'Souza to know the reality of the incident. Prema who hails from Kavoor comes from a poor family living on the river side. Her parents eked out a living by catching shell fish and crabs. Prema who did her PG in 2006-2008 had joined for PhD under Dr Anita Ravishankar in 2011. There are 3 other students who enrolled for PhD under Dr Anita in the same year.
Prema says she was greatly impressed by Dr Anita who always raved about fighting against corruption. After completing the selection procedure she had to work for six months to complete her course work. She had to answer 4 papers and one of the papers was on review literature. She was told that external examiners come for evaluating the papers and the students might have to pay some money for the comforts of these examiners. Prema says initially the amount was fixed at Rs 10,000 but subsequently increased to Rs 14,000 which she says she paid with great difficulty. She says she was shocked beyond belief when she thought she paid bribe and that really set her thinking.
For PhD registration Prema had to submit a synopsis and again she says all of them were asked to pay Rs 16,800. Prema says when others paid the money she could not shell out the huge amount and therefore she did a soul searching and finally decided to risk her own PhD degree by exposing what she calls the corruption indulged in by Dr Anita. Prema agreed to pay Rs 5000 to Dr Anita on Tuesday after alerting the Lokayukta and thus Anita was caught ‘red-handed’ as claimed by the Lokayukta.
When asked what prompted her to gamble with her PhD degree Prema responded saying “I was guided by my conscience and acted accordingly. If I were to keep quiet many other students like me would have suffered and the poor would not have been able to earn a degree or a doctorate”. Prema says she had enough proof to show the culpability of Dr Anita and said “I am confident justice would prevail”.
'Aimed to Malign us'
While Dr Anita Ravishankar (who has got herself admitted to Wenclock Hospital) did not respond to mobile calls her husband Dr Ravishankar termed the entire episode as “mala fide and the entire event is stage managed with a purpose to malign us. We have been here for 25 years and have not touched even a paisa. We know the truth for ourselves and that gives us the strength to face it”. But he refused to divulge the characters behind the drama saying it is not proper for him to comment considering that the matter is sub judice.
Den of Corruption
Dr Anita Ravishankar's arrest has rendered another serious blow to Mangalore University whose reputation has reached its nadir due to the various scandals that come into the open from time to time. Speak to any student of the university, past or present and what you get is nothing but downbeat remarks of students undergoing bitter experience of their years spent in the portals of this university campus. It just reflects the mood inside the campus and needless does not augur well for an institution like an University.
It is true that Mangalore University as a whole is steeped in corruption and one student even says “despite getting well paid some lecturers are still guided by the greed factor and do not hesitate to squeeze money from students whenever here is an opportunity”.
When daijiworld spoke to some of the PhD students (batch mates Prema), as expected, they were disinclined to speak out and one or two who chose to speak did not want to be quoted. One of the students said “Dr Anita had insinuated to keep the money ready as the external examiners had to be looked after during their stay in the city”. Sources say that most of these external examiners chose to fly when they are not eligible for it and have to be ‘entertained’ with all the luxuries and it is the students who have to pay for their luxuries, failing which evaluation of their papers get overly delayed. These students prefer to keep their mouth shut for fear of jeopardizing their future of obtaining a PhD degree. One of the students also said that Prema chose to open the Pandora’s Box because she is discontinuing her PhD course on health grounds and hence has nothing to lose by coming out in the open. However, Prema when asked said she is confident of the department considering her case with the seriousness it deserves without harming her interests. She did not confide her intention to discontinue the course.
The Other Angle
There is also another angle to this sordid affair, which is quite unfortunate. It is said that the entire university faculty is divided into two groups based on caste. We have the classic example of Umeshchandra episode of the department of Mass Communication and Journalism which had come into the open with the students coming to the streets. So, there is the possibility of someone from the department instigating Prema D'Souza to implicate Anita with an axe to grind. Mangalore University is replete with umpteen examples where students who questioned the teachers were reprimanded by denying rank or first class ‘in order to teach a lesson to the erring student’ and hence some students don’t deny the sabotage factor behind this muddy affair. An old student of Sociology Department, who is now a lecturer, says she was a victim of the caste divide which has become a cause for concern for many students. She chose to tell the lecturer in question to maintain his dignity as a faculty member when he often chided her for her being an upper caste. Her riposte cost her gold medal but she says she has no remorse.
As it happens in most case there will be accusations and counter accusations but just like caste becoming a prominent factor in politics in universities too caste has become a dominating feature widening the cleavage between students and teachers of the two castes.
While interacting with the batch mates of Prema it was clear that there was a demand for money on the pretext of ‘entertaining external evaluators’. As the university pays them for this work in addition to the salary they get (if they are from another university) there is no reason why the students should be asked to cough up huge money for their moj-masti, which the poor students can ill afford to pay.
One is not sure what course or angle this entire disgraceful episode is going to acquire in the days to come considering some of the bitter experiences of the past. Considering the matter as it is at the moment, Prema needs to be congratulated for her valiant efforts risking her own future. And this holds good if she is which if not instigated or guided by by those with an ulterior motive.