Thursday, June 18, 2015

Army `retreats' in face of IGNOU hostility over degrees. Approaches Maharashtra Open Univ


Having fought and won against all odds in hostile battle fields like Kargil and Siachen, the army has had to retreat in the face of continued hostility it is facing at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to get Bachelor of Science & Commerce Degrees for its soldiers.

The armed forces despite having signed an agreement, paid the fees, undergone requisite training have failed to get professional degrees for its soldiers, sailors and air men in the past three years. The Army fought a losing battle since 2012 and has now decided to abandon trying to reason with the vice chancellor of the IGNOU Prof M Aslam.

A decision has been taken by the Army Headquarters earlier this week to shift its soldiers seeking a professional degree to the Yashwant Rao Chavan Maharashtra Open University
The Army Headquarters is expected to sign an MoU with the Maharashtra open University for professional certification for its soldiers and junior commissioned officers (JCOs). However, as a last ditch effort the army has once again reached out to HRD minister Smriti Irani seeking her personal intervention for a permanent solution to the crisis.

``In the armed forces soldiers join at the age of 18 and after 17 years of service most retire at the age of 35. In the army they learn various trades – from working in the Engineers branch to Signals to computers. We signed a MoU with IGNOU to give them Bachelors of Science & Commerce degrees where two years of military certification and one year of IGNOU course would be treated as a three year degree,’’ top sources in the Army told Mail Today.

Till February 2012, 4.57 lakh soldiers got enrolled in the `Gyandeep’ scheme paying a fee of Rs 34.25 crore. ``The vertical mobility scheme would mean as soon as soldiers retire after 17 years of service and enter the civilian street they would automatically be armed with a bachelor’s degree. However, IGNOU unilaterally put the scheme on hold playing with the careers of literally thousands and thousands of retiring soldiers,’’ sources added.

This effectively means an Air warrior retiring from IAF is out on the streets without a degree which could have enabled him to get a job in the civil aviation sector. Similarly retiring army personnel have been unable to get jobs commensurate with their knowledge and experience only because they lack necessary certification, despite having undergone training, education and having paid the fee for a degree at IGNOU.  

The army immediately sought a meeting with authorities in IGNOU. ``The response of the vice chancellor Prof Aslam was most unfortunate. On July 4, 2012 IGNOU put all activities related to community colleges on hold and set up a committee to review more than 500 community college schemes. Despite our submission to Prof Aslam and authorities in IGNOU that armed forces have stringent systems of checks and balances the matter was not addressed by an openly hostile IGNOU management,’’ sources insisted.

``The IGNOU Board of Management accepted the committee recommendation for a review of the scheme and even though it said that a special scheme would be worked out for armed forces and MoUs would be honoured, the promise has not been honoured,’’ sources added. Maj Gen AK Mudolkar, additional director general (Personnel) Air Commodore SN Mukherjee, Principal Director Education and Commodore Ghanshyam Ojha, Principal director Naval Education wrote to IGNOU saying the future of retiring soldiers was at stake. But their plea fell on deaf ears.

Mail Today contacted IGNOU for a response and was told Prof Aslam is on leave and the matter was being handled by the ministry of Human Resources and Development.

The three service chiefs also met defence minister Manohar Parrikar and HRD minister Smriti Irani seeking their intervention. Irani remained unavailable for comment but official sources said after the service chiefs met Irani she has directed IGNOU to clear the backlog of degrees and certificates immediately. ``This is a backlog for the past 3 years. IGNOU needs to explain why soldiers were treated to poorly. After Irani’s missive 40,000 airmen have received their degrees and in the army while 2 lakh degrees and diplomas have been given the backlog is expected to be cleared shortly,’’ HRD ministry sources said.