Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Kavita Singh, who was awarded the prestitious Infosys Prize 2018 on Saturday, was denied leave by the university administration to attend the ceremony in Bengaluru. She participated in the function nonetheless.
Singh, the dean of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Arts and Aesthetics in New Delhi, said that she had applied for “vacation leave” on January 2 through the university’s e-office system since the winter holidays were on. She sought casual leave on January 4 in order collect the award in person. However, she received an automated message informing her that her application had been rejected by Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar.
“I checked the email only after I reached Bengaluru,” Singh told Scroll.in. She said she would be able to find out the reason for the vice chancellor’s decision only after accessing the e-office system from her office on Monday.
The noted art historian said she applied for casual leave instead of duty leave because her application to attend a conference at the India International Centre had been rejected in December.
“Even though this is a legitimate academic work I was going for, I thought let me not invite controversy by giving him [the vice chancellor] the chance to reject this and applied for casual leave, which is a right,” she added. “Casual leave is something you can even mark later, after you have taken off for some urgent work. But since I am the dean, I wanted to mark in advance because I had to also name the acting dean while I was away so they might sign the routine papers that might crop up.”
Singh said that last year the administration had rejected her application for a visiting professorship at Bogota, Colombia, and a fellowship at the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Singh was one of the staff members who opposed the compulsory attendance policy the administration introduced in December 2017. She was one of the seven faculty members removed from their posts in March. Five of them were reinstated in August on the orders of the Delhi High Court.