IN an apparent move to crack down on students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), who staged a four-month-long strike to protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the head of the prestigious institute, the administration has started refusing scholarships and the opportunity to participate in foreign exchange programmes to those who have “disciplinary matters” pending for their involvement in the protests.
As per the file notings obtained by The Indian Express, FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola has directed the heads of departments (HODs) and Deans to route all files pertaining to scholarships and foreign exchanges through the office of the Proctor, who is in charge of maintaining discipline . Documents obtained by The Indian Express, under the Right to Information Act, from various FTII departments showed that the nomination of eight students, who have “disciplinary matters” pending against them, came under the scanner.
Of these, four students were involved in gheraoing then FTII Director Prashant Pathrabhe in August 2015, at the height of the agitation against Chauhan’s appointment. Though they qualified for scholarships due to their academic performance, they were refused those scholarships, as per the documents.
The four ‘disqualified’ students are Payal Kapadia, Satchit Poulose, Jithin Das and Lavanya Ramaiah from the 2012 batch. They are also among the 35 students, including some who have since completed their course in FTII, undergoing trial at a Pune court on charges related to the agitation and gheraoing. Files pertaining to four other students eligible for scholarships showed that FTII had denied release of funds, as three of them were accused of “consuming alcohol and creating disturbance”, while another student was accused of ‘talking disrespectfully to and shouting at the Proctor’. Incidentally, the scholarship of the fourth student was cleared after he submitted a written apology.
The office of the Proctor was created at the FTII only a few months after the strike ended, in November 2015. On October 27, 2016, Kainthola remarked on a file, “Please check with the Proctor if there are any disciplinary or other issues with any of the prospective recipients. In the future, all scholarship files to be routed through the Proctor’s office”. He made similar remarks in files pertaining to foreign exchange programmes, and sending student films for festivals and awards.
On December 21, 2016, Kainthola “disqualified” Kapadia, Poulose and Das from receiving a scholarship amount of Rs 22,000, which had been given by private donors. On the same day, he wrote a letter to the executive director, State Television and Theatre Development Corporation, Andhra Pradesh, saying student “Lavanya Ramaiah is among students chargesheeted by Pune Police in August 2015 for forcible prolonged detention of the director and the case is subjudice. FTII is not in a position to release this scholarship in view of the above (citing Students’ Handbook, 1995)”.
However, the notings also showed that not everyone fully supported the stance taken by Kainthola. Amit Tyagi, Dean (Films), remarked on the same file, dated September 22, 2016: “Issues of discipline are minor infringements… and should not prejudice our assessment of students who are basically talented. Hence, scholarships should be awarded to students. However, the final decision is with the director.”
Apart from this, names of six students from the 2011 and 2012 batches, who were nominated for Student Exchange Programmes in foreign universities, were shot down by the director, as they were involved in “disciplinary matters” and have “court cases pending against them”. The students “disqualified” from the programme despite topping their respective classes are Raju Biswas, Vikas Urs, Prabhati Gharat, Satchith Poulose, Ranjit Nair and Payal Kapadia.
Vikas Urs, a final year student of cinematography, said, “It has been victimising students who had raised valid questions against the authority during the strike. Also, the matter is subjudice and nothing has been proved against anyone yet, how can they disqualify students… The institute does not value or respect merit and academic standards. The ego of the I&B Ministry and the FTII director is bigger than the merit and hard work of students. The FTII director doesn’t even have the courtesy to talk to me or anyone..”
Defending the action taken against certain students, Kainthola told The Indian Express, “It’s true that scholarships have been held back, but only in cases of serious indiscipline or when the inquiry is incomplete. It is equally true that scholarships have been released for students who have apologised in writing and promised good behaviour. It is our belief that an academically bright student must also learn to function within the framework of institutional rules and good behaviour. The two cannot be disjointed, hence the Proctor’s role.”
The administration has cited Rule 3 of the Students Handbook, 1995, to deny scholarships to those with pending disciplinary matters. But the rule only refers to the scholarships given by the institute and makes no mention of those awarded by the Centre, various state governments, as well as by private persons and trusts.
Kainthola said, “In case of all non-FTII scholarships, FTII is the custodian of the trust that the sponsors have vested in us. It’s logical that such scholarships would be governed by FTII rules till new rules are codified.”
[Source:-The Indian Express]