Kolkata: On March 16, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her government was invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. After chairing a high-level review meeting at the state secretariat, she also extended the statewide shutdown of educational institutions from March 31 to April 15.
However, at least one institution remains in violation of the directive and has kept its doors open for teaching and non-teaching staff.
Amity University’s Kolkata campus has issued an internal circular to various department heads stating, “Please request all faculty/visiting faculty members to conduct live online classes from the university campus itself.”
The pro-vice-chancellor Ankita Chakravarty also issued an email to the same effect, as well as requesting them to spread the message to fellow faculty members and staff, and directing them “to ensure classes are conducted live online and attendance is uploaded on Amizone accordingly.” The documents have been reviewed by The Wire Science.
The circular and the email both contravene the state government’s stipulation and also risk spreading the new coronavirus. The Wire Science has learned that the university’s campus in Newtown Rajarhat hosts around 300 teaching staff and over 100 non-teaching staff.
An assistant professor at the Kolkata campus told The Wire Science on condition of anonymity, “None of the higher officials, including the VC, registrar and most department heads are available on campus. They have safeguarded themselves from the risk [but] they don’t seem to have any concern for the lives of ordinary staff like us.”
He also most teachers are scared and hoping the government will intervene. “The university must close down for all the faculty members and non-teaching staff in compliance with the government order,” he said.
Deputy registrar Shauvik Roy Chowdhury said, “Our campus is shut; only teaching and non-teaching staff are attending. We have raised concerns with the higher authorities for a complete shutdown.”
However, he denied any internal communiqués asking faculty members to be present on campus; when asked of Chakravarty’s email, he said “was not aware of any such email.” However, the email clearly mentions him as a recipient.
Multiple calls to Manish Jain, the principal secretary of the department of education of the West Bengal government went unanswered.
The state-run Jadavpur University has already implemented the government’s directive and has suspended classes and shut its campus, from March 14.
Subhajit Naskar, an assistant professor in the university’s department of international relations, told The Wire Science, “Classes were suspended right after the CM’s press conference. Students were asked to vacate hostels the following day. Even professors were asked not to come. However, in case of emergency one can come, but he/she will require special permission from the VC to enter.”
Himadri Ghosh is a Kolkata-based journalist.