The Government of India has jurisdiction over certain key appointments in various institutions of the country. These appointments are subject to the wish of the Government, i.e.when a new government takes charge, they can choose to reappoint these positions to people of their choosing. Most previous governments exercise this wish, and the same has been done by the current Modi Government. However, these new appointments are not sitting too well with the rest of the country.
Let’s take a look at some of these controversial appointments:
1. Gajendra Chauhan – Chairman of the Film & Television Institute of India
After the likes of R.K Laxman, Shyam Benegal & Mahesh Bhatt, the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) got its new chairman in the form of Gajendra Chauhan in June 2015. Chauhan is primarily known for his role as ‘Yudhistir’ in Mahabharata, apart from which has done several small film and television roles. His filmography is less than impressive when compared to those of his predecessors.
As his resumé does not match his position, many believe that the appointment was politically motivated. It was viewed as a means to ‘saffronize’ otherwise autonomously operating institutes. In protest of the appointment, the students of FTII went on a hunger strike, which lasted for about 139 days. They also decided to boycott classes and called for a mass bunking. Many prominent personalities from Bollywood like Salman Khan, Anupam Kher and Kiran Rao came out in support of the students. The students have called for Chauhan’s resignation, however, he still remains in the position. His short tenure ended in March 2017.
2. Pahlaj Nihalani – Chairman of the Central Board for Film Certification
Another controversial appointment of the NDA Government, also from the film industry, has been that of Pahlaj Nihalani. He was appointed the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CFBC) in January 2015. Previously, he was a film producer and President of the Association of Pictures and TV Programme Producers. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, he made a YouTube video called ‘Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi’.
However, after his appointment, Nihalani made a bunch of decisions that threw him into the media limelight and brought him public criticism. His new strict guidelines for films called for no curse words, nudity or graphic content even in movies with the ‘A’ certification for mature audiences. He especially garnered negative attention for shortening kissing scenes in the James Bond film ‘Spectre’ and ordering 89 cuts in ‘Udta Punjab‘, a film about drug abuse in Punjab. His strict rules have caused people to label him as autocratic and a violator of the freedom of speech and expression. Many called for his replacement or resignation throughout his term. Finally, in 2017, he was replaced by lyricist Prasoon Joshi.
3. Chetan Chauhan – Chairman of the National Institute of Fashion Technology
Perhaps the most ill-fated appointment of all was that of the Chairman of the National Institute of Fashion Technology. A cricketer by profession, Chetan Chauhan was appointed the Chairman of the premier fashion designing institute in the country in June 2016. According to AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal, the main reason for this appointment was that Chauhan defended Arun Jaitley in the DDCA scam case.
The appointment is very contradictory because as per the NIFT Act of 2006, the Chairperson should be an academician, scientist, technologist or a professional but Chauhan is neither of them nor does he have any measurable knowledge of fashion. Various sections of the society have slammed the move, accusing the BJP of propagating its ideology at the country’s most prestigious institutes and by extension, taking away their autonomy.
4. Smriti Irani – Minister for Human Resource Development
Many found Smirit Irani as the Minister for Human Resource Development to be controversial. Educational qualification is perhaps not the most important criterion for most ministries but as the HRD looks into all education-related decisions, it requires a sound educational background. Questions were raised on her appointment as Irani has only studied until Std 12. Her handling of cases like Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU row had many calling for her removal. Finally, in July 2016, she was replaced by Prakash Javadekar in the cabinet reshuffle.