Maharashtra varsity’s “foreign” vice chancellor sacked

Dani kept a photo of Obama in his office

Mumbai: Maharashtra Governor C V Rao on July 29 sacked the Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University Vice-Chancellor after it was found he is not an Indian citizen.

A release from the governor’s office said Raviprakash G Dani’s services were terminated “with immediate effect” — barely 15 days before his five-year tenure was to end on August 13. He was appointed to the coveted post on August 14, 2012.

A Raj Bhavan official said the decision to remove Dani was taken after seeking the opinion of the state Law and Judiciary Department, Advocate-General and the Ministry of External Affairs.

The prestigious university is based in Akola, eastern Maharashtra, 575 km from Mumbai, the state capital. Dani was known to keep a picture of former US President Barack Obama in his cabin.

The issue of Dani’s citizenship was raised over two years ago when some top university officials found that he displayed a photo of former US President Obama prominently on his table. When objections were raised, he had removed the photograph and of his felicitation by the former US President at a function in the US.

Appointed on August 14, 2012, Dani was due to remit office on August 13, but now that it had been confirmed that he was a US citizen and hence not entitled to hold the post of a university VC, official sources explained.

Dani is a world-renowned biologist who has worked with the Texas Tech University, US, and was appointed to the post of VC by former Governor K. Sankaranarayanan in 2012.

The Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Akola — a technocrat-cum-farmer — Randhir Sawarkar had raised the issue of Dani’s citizenship in various fora, written to the state government and also apprised the governor. Sawarkar did this after hewas appointed to the university’s powerful Executive Council.

“It was shocking that a person who is not an Indian citizen could be appointed to such a crucial post in the first place,” Sawarkar told IANS, adding that he had even apprised Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of these issues.

Kishore Tiwari, a prominent farmer activist and Chairman of Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalambi Mission, said in the past five years, Dani merely promoted “bio-technology” (BT) — a technology which was largely responsible for the farmers’ distress in the country.

“He was highly connected with various agriculture multinational corporations and there should be a CBI probe to ascertain out if he has leaked sensitive information on Indian agriculture to outsiders,” Tiwari told IANS.

Official sources revealed that during his tenure, the ousted VC spent little time on the university campus which has a land bank of around 10,000 acres for agro-research purposes. However, little or no research programs were carried out in the region where the chief crop is Soyabeans, which could have benefited the farming community, they said.

The university’s regular affairs were overseen by his team of aides who interacted with all other top officials and took decisions on his behalf, the sources said. The university has 33 affiliated degree colleges of different categories including private and aided, a post graduate institute, 54 private and aided agriculture polytechnics.

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