More than two-and-a-half months after eight out of the 24 trustees of Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad resigned over the appointment of Governor Acharya Devvrat as the university’s Chancellor, four new trustees were appointed on Monday. The four new trustees are industrialist Gafurbhai Bilakhia, philanthropist Rajshree Birla, former state information commissioner Dilip Thaker and Vice-Chancellor of Indian Institute of Teachers Education (IITE) Gandhinagar Harshad Patel.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the board of trustees of the Vidyapith chaired by the Chancellor in which educationist and writer Mansukh Salla was given the Mahadev Desai Samaj Sewa Award 2022.
Among the new trustees, Gafur Bilakhia, a Gandhian settled in Vapi, was awarded Padma Shri in 2020 for his work in the field of trade and industry, Rajashree Birla was awarded the Padma Bhushan in area of social work in 2011. He is former member of Gujarat Khadi Board and Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, Rajghat New Delhi for three years each.
Rajashree Birla spearheads the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, the Group’s apex body for development projects, and is working in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sector since decades.
The appointment of the new trustees is also done keeping in mind the repeated claims of fund crunch made by the Gujarat Vidyapith authorities citing non-release of funds by the Centre.
“No person is Gandhian by birth. The person who devotes his life to values of Gandhiji becomes a Gandhian,” Chancellor Acharya Devvrat was quoted in an official release issued by the government.
Harshad Patel is also a Chancellor-nominated member of Board of Management at Gujarat Vidyapith since April 1, 2022.
Eight out of 24 trustees of the Vidyapith had resigned on October 17, 2022, hours before the 68th annual convocation of the university, citing “unethical use of power” over the appointment of Devvrat as Chancellor, stating that it was “under crass political pressure” and appealed to the Governor to “uphold democratic values” by declining the offer.
The eight trustees who resigned barely a day before the annual convocation were Dr Sudarshan Iyangar, Dr Anamik Shah, Mandaben Parikh, Uttambhai Parmar, Chaitanya Bhatt, Neetaben Hardikar, Michael Mazgaonkar and Kapil Shah.
The eight resigned trustees in a joint statement had said that “appointment of the Chancellor was rushed through, not by consensus but by a badly fractured vote” adding that “Gandhi’s philosophy cannot be reduced to mere natural farming, cattle breeding or nature cure”.