Nalanda University : Outsiders’ faith in Government !!

The much-anticipated Nalanda University in Bihar is awaiting pledged contributions from foreign countries, as donors watch carefully whether India, plagued by systemic delays, will be able to get it off the ground.

The university was envisioned as a model of revived links between India and East Asia. But things have not gone according to plan.

As per the latest report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, the projected capital expenditure for Nalanda university is `2,153.8 crore. The recurring cost is between `32.69 crore in the first year and `323.35 in the tenth.

“While the capital expenditure will be borne entirely by the Indian government, we hope that the endowment fund to run the university will be raised from other sources,” said a senior MEA official, which will allow the university a high degree of autonomy. So far, the fund has received $1 million from China and $1,00,000 from Thailand. The Australian and Japanese governments, as well as Singapore’s Buddhist community and Thai businessmen, have pledged money, which is yet to come.

Delays have been plaguing the project. Last month, the government formally confirmed Gopa Sabharwal as the vice-chancellor—15 months after she joined office in October 2010.

Most of the delays, according to sources, could be traced to the Ministry of External Affairs’ unfamiliarity in setting up educational institutions. The MEA finally appointed a joint secretary to deal exclusively with the Nalanda project.

A national monitoring committee headed by the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, was set up last week along with a committee to draw up amendments to the Nalanda University Act 2010. It will submit its report in a month.

According to sources, among major amendments is the one to allow the top five contributing countries a seat each on the governing board. “One of the governing board members had even said that it should not look as if India is auctioning the seats,” said a senior official.

The next meeting of the governing board, led by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, will be held in Patna on July 19, which will aim to give clarity to the issue of fundraising. “The fundraising issue will certainly be a major item on the agenda in the next general body meeting,” Gopa Sabharwal told The Sunday Standard. “So far, we have got the money without doing much. But we need to do it more actively,” said the official.

Among the matters that require clarification, is how to work with private donors. Nalanda has already received a pledge of $1 million from a private donor, former Indian ambassador Madanjeet Singh.
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