Has ‘internationally acclaimed’ Nalanda University become world class?

After the NDA came to power in the Centre the situation deteriorated further. Former foreign minister of Singapore George Yeo succeeded Sen. But the University remained in the news more for wrong reasons. A few months back there was an agitation after charge of molestation of a student. At present there is hardly anything good to write about it.




Nalanda University Building (Image Courtesy: TheWire.IN)

-Soroor Ahmed

When ‘internationally acclaimed’ Nalanda University, said to be a brainchild of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, could not yet fully take off in spite of its revival almost a decade back what will happen if Patna University really gets a central university status. This university has only 30 faculty members and 130 students though the first academic session started in September 2014.

After all chief minister Nitish Kumar, through his political maneuvering managed to get two Central Universities, instead of one to all other states, during the UPA government.

When Arjun Singh was the HRD minister during the UPA-I he did not accept the demand of central university status for Patna University, though several other varsities, including Allahabad University, got it.

This may be because Bihar had then got Nalanda University as well as an off campus branch of Aligarh Muslim University, besides a new Central University.

When the Bihar government was slow in allotting land for the new Central University the then HRD minister during UPA-II Kapil Sibal, started initiating work on the defence ministry land in Gaya. In the meantime the Central University started running some courses in BIT Patna.

Nitish wanted the Central University to start in the land of Gandhi, that is Champaran. There started agitation by people of both the places in Gaya and Motihari––the land of Mahatma Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi.

However, the Centre finally agreed to open universities in both the places. But the truth is that in none of these two places functioning has started in a full-fledged manner.

In the same way AMU was initially planned by the Centre in Katihar, but Nitish insisted that it should be opened in Kishanganj. There too started struggle for acquiring land. The ABVP, the students’ wing of the BJP, opposed it, though the latter was partner in the state government.

Anyway all these problems were finally sorted out after a few years. The off campus branch of the AMU started running a couple of courses from a temporary campus. But then came the Narendra Modi government which stopped taking any interest in it. The Kishanganj centre is almost gasping for breath.

The case of Nalanda University is no different. It was not that it got off a great start. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was its Chancellor.

After the NDA came to power in the Centre the situation deteriorated further. Former foreign minister of Singapore George Yeo succeeded Sen. But the University remained in the news more for wrong reasons. A few months back there was an agitation after charge of molestation of a student. At present there is hardly anything good to write about it.

The big question is what will happen to PU, if the Prime Minister Modi would have declared it a central university. How can one be assured that politics over new campus and land acquisition would not start. One set of politicians may then suggest that it should run from the same old campus while others would argue for new campus outside Patna.

Then there would be a mad race for taking credit among different political parties.

If the fate of four new educational institutions mentioned above hangs in balance, how can one expect to see PU becoming a world class centre of learning. Whether it gets a central university status or not the PU in near future––with just one-third of its actual faculty strength––can never dream of becoming top 10 public university of India.

The October 14 speech competition on its campus was just meant to befool the people of the state.  Millions of rupees of tax-payers money wasted and classes disrupted for many days just to please a few politicians.

Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. He writes for different prominent dailies.