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A tussle out in the open in Amul town

Gaurav Raghuvanshi
and Agencies

Three IRMA Directors barred from convocation: Kurien at the heart of controversy



Dr. Verghese Kurien

ANAND: This small town in Gujarat that gave birth to Amul was on the boil on Friday with the ongoing tussle between India's milkman, Dr. Verghese Kurien, and his detractors spilling out in the open.

Three eminent personalities, whose status as Directors on the Board of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), is the subject of an intense legal battle, were physically prevented from entering the campus to attend a meeting convened to formally approve the conferring of degrees on the 24th batch of students.

Bakul Dholakia (Director of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad), Hasmukh Shah (Chairman of the National Institute of Design) and Vijay Mahajan (chief of Basix, a Hyderabad-based non-government organisation) were prevented from entering the IRMA campus on the instructions of the acting Director of the Institute, L. K. Vaswani, a Kurien appointee.

The IRMA Director, K. Prathap Reddy, who was sacked by Dr. Kurien on April 7, was also prevented from attending the board meeting and was seen walking out of the campus. His appeal against his dismissal is being heard by the Gujarat High Court.

After the convocation ceremony, Dr. Kurien told reporters that a "conspiracy" was being hatched to "capture the beautiful institution." The octogenarian Dr. Kurien said he was willing to step down as Chairman of IRMA, but would relinquish office only when he could ensure that the future of the institution was in "safe hands."

At the heart of the problem is the alleged "autocratic" style of Dr. Kurien in running IRMA, a prestigious institution that he had built 25 years ago to prepare rural managers. His detractors, who include his former protégé and National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) Chairperson, Dr. Amrita Patel, contend that the functioning of IRMA needs an urgent overhaul.

"Nobody is above the law. We are simply trying to set right the things that have been going wrong at IRMA. We will continue our fight against the illegal termination of Prof. Reddy as only the Board has the power to appoint or remove the Director. One person calling all the shots is not in the interest of the institution," Dr. Patel said.

The anti-Kurien faction of the IRMA board met on April 1 and appointed a search committee to prepare a panel of names for the post of IRMA Chairman, seen by many as a signal for Dr. Kurien to relinquish office.

Interestingly, the committee has not ruled out appointing Dr. Kurien himself.

Dr. Kurien says that the April 1 meeting itself was null and void as it had not been convened by him.

The Chairman, he says, has the exclusive rights to convene a board meeting. Moreover, three members who attended the April 1 board meeting had ceased to be members, Dr. Kurien claimed.

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