India's Missile Man APJ Kalam ready to renew Nalanda link

APJ Abdul Kalam, who as President of India had first proposed setting up of the Nalanda International University, today agreed to chief minister Nitish Kumar's request to serve the upcoming centre of excellence as a visiting faculty. Kalam was in the state capital on the invitation of the Assembly secretariat to address members of both Houses of the legislature.

It was during his address to a joint sitting of the legislature in March 2006 that Kalam, then President, had first mooted the idea of Nalanda International University on the lines of the great ancient seat of learning. Kalam on Tuesday played professor to the "class of legislators", imparting them lessons in leadership and tips on how to transform themselves into perfect leaders of the people.

Nitish, who was among the "students", recalled how Kalam was the "first visionary" to envision the Nalanda university, becoming its first visitor. "Kalam's vision has seen the light of day with Parliament enacting the law for the institution,” the chief minister said. "I requested Kalam sahib to continue as its visitor. But he refused."

"It is, however, heartening that Kalam sahib has agreed to my request to teach in the university despite staying away from its governing body," Nitish said. Kalam said he would keep coming to Bihar. "I have agreed to the chief minister's request," he said. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is the chairman of the mentor group-turned-governing council of the university. The incumbent President of India is the visitor to the university as per the Act.

A controversy had broken out over the university some months ago following Kalam's decision to "disassociate" himself from the university, apparently because the governing council had decided to appoint Gopa Sabharwal, an associate professor of sociology at LSR College, Delhi, as the vice-chancellor-designate without consulting him. A section of academics has questioned the decision to appoint Sabharwal, arguing she was not competent enough to helm such an important project. The charge has been rebutted by Sen, who has given his vote of confidence to the sociologist.

JD(U) legislator Irshad Ahmed on Tuesday raised the issue again and asked Kalam if Sabharwal was the right choice for the job. The former President sidestepped the query. "The President of India is the new visitor to the institution and it is for the visitor to decide on issues related to such positions," Kalam said.
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