Guwahati, May 13 : If PhD degrees in one year to 434 candidates is a "feat" for which CMJ University in Shillong now finds its doors sealed, the growth of its chancellor in the field of academics has not been any less exponential.
Till the early 1980s, as far as anyone can remember, Chandra Mohan Jha was a petty government contractor. By the time he moved on to his first educational ventures, the North East India Trust for Education and Development (NEITED), in 1999-2000, he had managed to rope in former CM D D Lapang as a chairman. The trust landed in a controversy over use of funds and Lapang resigned soon after.
The official website of CMJ University (named by Jha for himself) talks of the 'CMJ Group' having earlier promoted Shillong Engineering and Medical College. In 2003, the engineering and medical college affiliated to North-Eastern Hill University got permission to use two government hospitals in Shillong for the purpose of practical training of its medical students. It was later de-recognised by North-Eastern Hill University (it is now affiliated to CMJ University).
None of which appears to have come in his way as Jha set up CMJ University in 2009 and went on to admit over 3,300 students. Its 434 PhD degrees in one academic year also stand out for the fact that only 10 of its faculty have doctorates. It offers PhD degrees in 79 different subjects. Even a trip to Shillong wasn't needed for the PhD degree. One dental clinic in Panchkula advertised offering its degree. "I have been told that there are such agents all over UP and Bihar facilitating PhD degrees and other degrees from this university," says Meghalaya Governor R A Mooshahary, who as Visitor, filed an FIR against the university on April 30.
Since the FIR was filed and Jha went on the run, local media has been reporting about his "high connections", and how these have helped him for the past several years if not decades. "I remember him as a government contractor in the early 1980s," recalls Patricia Mukhim, a well-known social activist and editor of Shillong Times. "I also remember Jha sending us a press note claiming that a foreign university had awarded him a PhD degree."
Lapang admitted being associated with Jha, but says it was brief. "I soon resigned," Lapang told The Indian Express, adding "The law will take its own course (in the matter of the university)." The four-time CM of Meghalaya incidentally is currently chief advisor to the government of Meghalaya.
Reports are also emerging about Jha having been briefly arrested in 2011 in connection with a case filed by HUDCO; he was released on bail soon after. Another report says the CBI had filed a chargesheet against Jha, then secretary of NEITED, for "misutilisation" of funds released by the North Eastern Council for implementation of a scheme called 'Integrated e-education and tele health programme for 10 schools in Meghalaya'. He is accused of having filed false utilisation certificates.
While Jha himself remains missing, CMJ University authorities refused to comment. Registrar Mrinal Kanti Deb was arrested Saturday while Deputy Registrar Premlal Rai fends off all queries saying: "Wait till he (Jha) returns." Officially, the Meghalaya Police CID have been told by the university that Jha is away in Bihar, his home state, for a wedding in the family.