We, Padma Shri Dr. Shanthi Ranganathan (Director, TTK Hospital); Dr. K.R. Gangadharan (Former President, International Federation on Ageing and Chairman of Heritage Healthcare; P.P. Sukumaran (President-HR, GVK Group); Dr. K. Prabakar (CEO, Apollo Knowledge); Dr. J.M. Sampath (Managing Director, Arpitha Associates), Dr. Vandana Gopikumar (Founder, The Banyan and Professor of Social Work, TISS ) ; Dr. T.K. Nair (Former Principal, MSSW), and hundreds of members of the MSSW Renaissance Group (MARG), write this letter to all members of the Board of Management in the best interest of the institution.
Padma Vibhushan Late Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav, the legendary social worker, founded the Madras School of Social Work in 1952 to provide education in social work of high quality to young men and women, and thereby improve the quality of social work services in India. Till she breathed her last, she was solely concerned with social well-being. She never dreamt of MSSW becoming a commercially oriented educational institution selling education and making money.
2. After more than 45 years of the functioning of the MSSW as a leading educational institution offering professional education in social work and HR in the country, those who were controlling the MSSW then attempted the unthinkable: closing down the Master’s Degree in Social Work! An act of irreverence to the noble founder: to make her vision to be blinded permanently! Fortunately the timely resistance from concerned alumni, students and teachers made those who initiated the reckless step to retract from the intended sacrilege.
3. Strangely afterwards they came up with a commercial plan and started an MBA course in partnership with a US University during 1999-2000. After some years this course was suspended as the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) refused to recognise that MBA. They then applied for an MBA under the "name and style” of MSSW. The AICTE turned down this proposal more than once on the basis of the reports of inspection committees. But the commercially driven controllers of MSSW filed a writ petition before the Madras High Court praying for quashing the AICTE order, which is pending.
4. At this stage, the various stakeholders of the institution should ask the management certain pertinent questions. What is the relevance of an MBA programme in an institution founded to promote social work education and training? If tomorrow, Fashion Technology becomes more popular than MBA, would MSSW become an Institute for Fashion Technology? Should the MSSW run courses at the whims and fancies of those who control it or should it be aligned at all times to the vision of the founder, and be socially relevant?
5. Prof. K.N. George who joined the MSSW in 1955 as a lecturer, after rising to the position within a few years as its Director, carried on the responsibility as the principal institution builder. Working with a highly supportive management team led by the leading industrialist Dr. D.C. Kothari as President, Prof. George played a key role even in the induction of the members of the Board. Much notable are his efforts in mobilizing capital funds for the MSSW, by coordinating with organizations like MISEREOR, the Catholic agency that funded the hostel complex and the EZE, the Protestant donor organization which contributed for the four-floor academic building in the campus. Prof. George served MSSW for 55 years in various capacities by making praiseworthy contributions to its growth from thatched sheds to the present status. If Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav was the founder of the MSSW, the honorific of ‘the builder’ truly belongs to none other than Prof. K. N. George. After his tenure as Director, Prof. George was inducted as the Hon. Secretary of the Society who invited members to the Board to strengthen his efforts from time to time. But in 2010, the team he helped constitute in good faith scripted the end of his long tenure of service at MSSW. But by a quirk of fate, in a sort of ‘Palace Coup’, he was unceremoniously removed from the position of Secretary and humiliated. Sadly, the same team that inflicted such a cruel blow on ‘the builder of the MSSW’ continues almost unchanged even now, barring the President who died a year later. At the tender mercy of the new incumbents, in a token gesture of compensation, Prof. George is retained as a member of the Board devoid of any power. In any healthy educational institution with a tradition, a Professor of his stature and contribution would have been accorded an ‘emeritus’ status and honoured.
6. The Society for Social Education and Research (SSER) was formed in 1960 by Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav with 19 members to “take over and manage the MSSW” and was registered under the Societies Registration Act. The MSSW was also duly registered under the Income Tax Act for receiving exemption from income tax for the donations and MSSW was also registered with the Ministry of Home affairs under the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act. Despite consisting of many prominent persons, the SSER never fully conformed to the provisions of the Societies Registration Act, and remained an unknown entity. Perhaps because foreign contributions came to MSSW’s account which was registered under the FCRA, and the UGC and the government grants were received directly by the MSSW. Apparently there was no fund raising in the name of SSER, and as mandated this society just took over and ran the MSSW. Especially after the demise of Mrs. Jadhav in 1975, the SSER remained a paper society without funds of its own. By 1988 it was a “defunct” society, having not filed annual returns to the Registrar of Societies for several years. After 1988 based on the orders of the Hon. High Court the SSER was reconstituted.
7. The SSER is a typical self-perpetuating voluntary organisation, where all decisions including that of membership and its duration are taken by a handful of persons arbitrarily. The absence of any provision on term limitation in the TN Societies Registration Act of 1975 added to the convenience. The unfortunate decisions to do away with MA Social Work and to make MSSW almost a management institute were made by a few. In the end, Mrs. Mary Clubwala’s pathbreaking initiative had diminished to be just a B-grade actor in the arena of social work education and research.
8. The initiative for the renaissance of the Madras School of Social Work is essentially necessitated by the gross neglect of its custodians for over three decades on multiple fronts and the consequent decline of the institution that was once one of the guiding lights for social work education and practice in India. We had portrayed the sad state of this public institution in our previous posts and now is the time to call for action so that a few private actors who lack the credentials and commitment to take MSSW towards excellence do not make it an ordinary self-financing college. The organisational and management framework of MSSW fails to meet at present the three key criteria for its sustenance as a public organisation: legitimacy, transparency and accountability.
9. The Madras School of Social Work established by Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav in 1952 through her personal efforts was brought in to the ambit of public domain, when the Society for Social Education and Research was registered under the Societies Registration Act in 1960 as a governing body to manage the affairs of the MSSW as required by the statutory authorities. Mrs Jadhav ensured that the members of the society consisted of well- known public figures from various fields who had no vested interest in the organisation, and their inclusion was only to give adequate representation to various constituencies and stakeholders. This legitimacy which was one of the core strengths of the MSSW is glaringly lacking today, as the credentials required for the membership of this august forum are oblivious. But obvious is the absence or exclusion of illustrious alumni, including academicians and practitioners, whose achievements are more recognised in the real world than by their 'alma mater.’ Should the onus of carrying out the vision and mission of Mrs. Jadhav rest with a group of individuals whose real interests and capabilities lie elsewhere? Many of whom see the present positions as opportunities for power and pecuniary benefits.
10. Transparency is one of the hallmarks of the social work profession. So it is desirable that the Madras School of Social Work is managed in a transparent manner. But in practice there are complaints that its functioning is not transparent. Shrouded in mystery are the ways of the Society. Members are admitted and removed form the society for reasons unknown. Even an eminently qualified Hon. Secretary like Prof. K.N. George was removed unceremoniously, perhaps illegally not conforming to the provisions of the TN Societies Registration Act. Despite receiving funds from public sources, there is no transparent public disclosure of its income or expenditure, being privy only to the members of this self-perpetuating society.
11. This leads to the next question of accountability. Who is responsible for the downturn of the MSSW, and what actions can be taken against them for the dilution of its stated objects, and turning it into a mediocre institution? That the Society for Social Education and Research is a public charitable society under the statute books is an indisputable fact, and therefore those at its helm, holding positions similar to that of a public office, must be made accountable for their decisions and actions to the general public and other stakeholders. By voicing our opinion in a forum like MARG (MSSW Renaissance Group), we aim to disseminate our concerns to the larger public so that social pressure is built-up to bring about structural changes in the organisational and management framework of MSSW, leading to greater accountability. Those who cannot deliver must go from the scene.
12. The MSSW Renaissance Group puts up the following charter of demands before the MSSW management, for its urgent and immediate attention and necessary action to bring in greater legitimacy, transparency and accountability in its functioning:
Warm regards ,
J.Ayyappan, CEO, Hiproforhr Consultants
Babu Daniel, Market Consultant
S.Malar, Former Faculty Member, MSSW
Editor, Social Work Foot Prints
Communications Co-ordinator ( MARG)
20, January, 2016
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