In a surprising move, the Tamil Nadu government has appointed a retired judge to probe allegations against the Vice Chancellor of Anna University, M.K. Surappa, who was hand-picked by the Governor to head the university. The allegations against him include financial and administrative irregularities.
From the time he was selected to head the university, there have been sporadic protests, with Opposition political parties questioning the choice of a person from outside the State, but the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government maintained a studied silence.
In a release on November 13, the government listed six charges against the Vice Chancellor, and said that P. Kalaiyarasan, a former High Court judge, will inquire into the allegations and submit a report to the State government within three months.
One of the charges levelled against Surappa is that he “appointed his daughter in Anna University by misusing the powers vested in him”. The complainant further stated that “there is a scam in purchase of machineries for constituent colleges”.
The government had also received complaints of “professors appropriating crores of rupees of government funds” and that “Sakthinathan, Deputy Director (CCC), Anna University, and Dr Surappa, Vice Chancellor, are involved in corruption to the tune of Rs.200 crore”. The complainant “alleged that Sakthinathan and Dr Surappa have collected a sum total of nearly Rs.80 crore by taking bribes of Rs.13 lakh to 15 lakh per candidate for the recruitment of temporary teaching fellows of the constituent colleges and Anna University main campus”.
One of the complaints is related to an issue that has irked the government: “Prof. M.K. Surappa has mailed wrong information to AICTE [All India Council for Technical Education] that the final year students were passed without conducting examinations.”
Surappa was appointed by Governor Banwarilal Purohit in 2018, more than two years after the post became vacant. At that time, the Opposition parties alleged that the move to appoint an outsider was aimed at saffronising the university. The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) had labelled him “corrupt” and pointed to his ‘inefficiency’ in executing projects at that time. The ruling AIADMK justified the appointment because it was on shaky grounds then—the Vice Chancellor took office just over a year after Edappadi K. Palaniswami was appointed Chief Minister.
Surappa courted controversy after he wrote to the Centre asking for Anna University to be upgraded as an Institute of Eminence. The government took objection to this in October 2020 and asked him for an explanation (see https://frontline.thehindu.com/dispatches/anna-university-vice-chancellor-mk-surappa-writes-to-the-centre-seeking-institute-of-eminence-status-amid-fears-that-the-universitys-69-per-cent-reservation-is-being-targeted/article32864760.ece). The government was of the view that this would adversely affect the reservation policy adopted by the State. Soon after, the government began looking closely at his functioning during his tenure.