Sunday, April 29, 2012

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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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nalanda International University ACT to be Ammended !!

Planning Commission has constituted a Committee to suggest Amendments in the Nalanda University Act, 2010. Prof.N.R.MadhavaMenon, Former Vice-Chancellor, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata will be the Chairman of the 10 member committee, other members include are Prof.Pankaj Chandra, Director, IIM Bangalore, Dr.GopaSabharwal, Vice Chancellor, Nalanda University, Prof. G. Mohan Gopal, Director Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi, Prof. K. Rajiv Saxena, Vice President, South Asia University, Dr.MeenakshiGopinath , Principal,LSR, New Delhi, Dr.JitendraNath Mishra, Joint Secretary, MEA , and the committee will also have representatives of Department of Legislative Affairs & Department of Expenditure will be as members.

The Committee would examine the Nalanda University Act, 2010 particularly provisions relating to academic, administrative and financial autonomy and suggest amendments to provide for full autonomy in matters relating to making appointments, determining salaries and emoluments and auditing. The Committee would also suggest amendments in the Act to ensure that the university acquires international stature and excellence through representative and flexible governance and forward looking legislation. It would first examine Statutes, existing Ordinances and Regulation and suggest changes so that these are consistent with the Act and lay down broad principles for making Statutes, existing Ordinances and future Regulations in the interest of consistency and clarity and would suggest amendments / insertions in the Act to take care of existing gaps with a view to see that the University functions smoothly.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nalanda buzz around Bengal Buddha statues !!

Buddha statues dating back to sixth and seventh century AD have been found at a West Midnapore site where archaeologists have stumbled upon the ruins of a “Buddhist monastic complex” resembling the ancient Nalanda University.

The statues were discovered yesterday at Dantan’s Moghalmari village, 180km from Calcutta and near the Odisha border, by a team of Calcutta University archaeologists.

“It appears to us that this was an institution on the lines of Nalanda. Some of the decorations found are similar to those in Nalanda,” said Asok Datta, a professor of archaeology and a former head of the department who has been leading the team.

Datta said monastic complexes were found in Murshidabad and Malda around two decades ago but the one in Dantan is the biggest yet in Bengal so far. “It appears the ruins of the monastic complex is the largest so far found in Bengal, measuring about 3,600 square metres.”

The archaeologist said the complex and the statues traced their roots to the reign of Sasanka, who ruled Bengal between 590 and 626 AD.

“We came across the statues yesterday. Some of the statues are of Buddha in various forms and figures. We have discovered some sculptures of Dharmachakra as well,” Datta said. Dharmachakra, a wheel of life, is a religious symbol representing Buddha’s path to enlightenment.

The digging at Dantan began in 2003. “A headmaster of a local school had drawn my attention to a big mound at Moghalmari village. I visited the place and saw some fragments of bricks that appeared ancient. I returned and decided that excavating the mound might reveal something,” said Datta.

The monastic complex is decorated with stucco art. “The excavation revealed the ruins of a monastery and other constructions from which we can deduce that there was some kind of a school or institution,” said Datta.

Five phases of excavation have been carried out. The sixth started on March 10 this year.

A librarian in Dantan, Surjya Nandi, said that the site should be taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India to facilitate more discoveries. “If the Archaeological Survey of India takes over the excavation, their expertise will help reveal many more things,” he said.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bihar Pride in national identity !!

Bihar got the least funds from the Centre because the state lacks political lobbying. Though Bihar has many prominent leaders in New Delhi, funds transfer is minimum.

In the southern states, the social movements got converted into identity movements with regional aspirations such as Tamil, Telugu identities emerging in concurrence with national identity. Even Tagore represented two identities — the national identity which was adapted as the National Anthem of our country and the regional identity (Bengali), which was adapted as the National Anthem of Bangladesh.

In Bihar, there were only two identities — caste and national identity. There was no regional identity. This was a disadvantage for the ownership of funds.


Bihar has provided the guiding principle not only in creating a national identity, but even an international identity for India. For those who want the fruits of development, the national identity should be greater than the sub-natio- nal identity.

The state should do more on political democracy. Few democracies in the world are as strong as India’s. Very few people from the lower rung of society have attained top positions in the UK and Japan. If we want to make our case stronger, we have to walk with other regional groups or states left behind in development. Moving alone will not pave the way. Moreover, it will be a difficult task to attain.


Bihar has a strong regional identity, which is good for the nation as well. Each region should have a different identity. India has prospered despite a pluralistic society, having different languages.

Few cities have dominated the social, political, national and economic identities of India so far. But all regions should be on a par. Strong sub-regionalism gives strong national identity as well as a sense of pride and sovereignty to the nation. The erstwhile Nalanda University prospered only because of the amalgamation of knowledge from all regions.

One can take a person out of the region but not vice versa.


When talking about true nationality, we cannot leave apart any region from the country. Bihar has been standing on its own since ages as a strong pillar with India. Any weak region would lead to a weak nation.

Talking about sub-nationalism would neither do any good to the state nor the country. For instance, when the Centre talks about nation building, majority of the resources are given to Bihar because it has remained backward for long. After crossing the boundary of this country, everyone is known as Indian.


There is a debate on the issue of sub-national and national identities but the question is what constitutes the identity. Identity is an entity that comprises several factors such as political, economic, social and cultural background.

Bihar needs to show a sense of solidarity. It is hard to explain why the state has not progressed despite having vast fertile land. A third of it could not be exploited. What prevented the state from building institutions? Even a single district of Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu has more engineering colleges than entire Bihar. The state has a rich cultural heritage.

Borobudur in Indonesia has the highest stupa in the world, which is a big tourist destination. But very few people know that the world’s highest stupa is actually in Kesaria in East Chamaparan and can be promoted as a tourist destination.


Bihar never adopted the path of regionalism. Such issues have often been heard of in Maharashtra, where regional songs are played on radio every morning. It will now be played in Bihar too.

Bihar is the place of three religious gurus — Guru Gobind Singh, Gautam Buddha and Mahavira — who always stood for national identity. It is evident from the fight of Chandragupta, Veer Kuer Singh, Jaiprakash Narayan and others for the nation.

Biharis believe in hum (we) instead of main (me). Bihar is not hankering for its sub-national identity on the national scene. People should not talk about the issue of sub-national identity just to get more funds.


Sanjay Nirupam contradicts himself because he did not oppose when Biharis were insulted in Maharashtra. Bihar needs an identity precisely because of this. There is no contradiction between Bihar’s identity and cross-culture identity. When (US) President Obama recited lines of Kautilya, nobody said the latter was from Bihar.

Bihar’s identity is cosmic and it transcends boundaries. The word is on “the centenary year”. Bihar has been divided three times. First, it lost its link to the sea. The second bifurcation left it landlocked. In the third, it lost its mineral resources. The question is about regaining glory for a better Bihar. Today, we are no longer considered a laggard state. We are regarded as a trendsetter. That is Bihari pride.


Only those who are identity-starved talk about regional identity. There is no need to say that President Obama read out lines of Kautilya who is from Bihar. Or if Biharis stop work, agriculture in Punjab and taxis in Mumbai will come to a grinding halt. Patliputra cannot be removed from India.

By talking about Bihari identity, we will be belittling our own legacy. Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha and JP Movement were not only for Bihar.

Good governance, and not regional identity, is the DNA of progress. In the past, we have seen mass leaders with an absence of progress. It is true that Bihar has remained neglected and has lagged behind. But trust the political dynamics to find solutions for it. Bihar will have a central role in the nation’s pride.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012


Why has our Central university sector, especially its more recent entrants, underperformed as a whole? The reasons can be summarized as location and tradition. A university cannot be built overnight, nor can it flourish except in close integration with a community. (This does not imply parochialism; rather, that the host community actively welcomes and interacts with the wider universe opened up by a ‘univers-ity’ worth its name.) Across India, there is a network of universities (chiefly with state government support), and a more intensive one of colleges reaching into the hinterland, that have achieved this integration over decades, perhaps a century or more. Instead of supporting them with adequate funds or addressing their (often grave and sordid) problems, the nation’s government has effectively turned its back on them. The schemes for their advancement add up to little, not to mention the obstacle course to avail of them. The Twelfth Plan is reported to have introduced some items of basic support to state-run universities. While welcoming the move, one hopes this palliative will not be the pretext to deny more substantial benefits.

 The ironic truth is that, though the funds envisaged for greenfield Central universities are lavish by Indian standards, they are quite inadequate to set up a truly superior infrastructure and resource base from scratch. Even if these institutions acquire an exceptional faculty (which on present showing seems unlikely), they could not achieve more than the better state universities have already done. But had the same funds been sanctioned to the latter (of course after due assessment), they could have built higher on the base already in place, acquired the extra resource boost needed to create a truly outstanding institution. That would have been a far better use of funds, with a nationwide spread effect. Instead, we are offered a sprinkling of isolated centres under direct control of the Union government. Some of these islands exist only on the map, but they bear impressive names. A common buzzword is ‘centre of excellence’. Unlike ‘Potential for Excellence’ or ‘Centre of Advanced Study’, a ‘centre of excellence’ is not a recognized academic category with specific benchmarks. It can mean anything and nothing. Moreover, the phrase is increasingly used not in recognition of work done, but in pious hope of work that might be done, sometimes in newly set up institutions. If those hopes are belied, there is no way to stem the bounty. Following Parkinson’s law, the only acceptable solution is to pour in more money, or still more, into new institutions. The other, patently absurd label is ‘world-class’. You cannot set up a ‘world-class university’ by fiat: it has to acquire that status by long endeavour. At most, you can offer infrastructure and resources at the level of the great international universities, built up over decades and centuries. The cost, in so far as it could be quantified, would be astronomical.

It is insane to envisage such a sum for any greenfield university in India, even by pauperizing the rest. Any conceivable funding level would at best be middling by international standards. Some extant Indian universities have already attained that level over time. A word seems in order about two formally international institutions. One, South Asian University, started operations two years ago. The India government is meeting its entire capital cost of 300 million dollars, plus 100 acres in South Delhi. Its juniormost lecturer receives as much as senior professors at a Central university, besides benefits that cannot possibly match rumours but are clearly exceptional. The other, Nalanda International University, appears not to have a website, so there is no way of checking reports of its gestational expenses. The Wikipedia entry quotes an estimate of a billion dollars to set up the campus and improve the environs. That is equivalent to one-third of India’s higher education budget. Of course, the bill will be shared by taxpayers of many nations. India’s initial pledge was Rs.1,000 crore, not to mention 446 acres of land. It seems appropriate to make the highest demands of these institutions, advantaged beyond the dreams of most Indian academics. Unless they achieve dramatically more than Delhi University or Jawaharlal Nehru University (to name two of our most privileged and productive campuses), they will not justify their existence. And we should not have to wait unduly to draw that benefit. Let us think of a more practical benchmark, already met by many humbler institutions: what we might term ‘international recognition’. By this criterion, students acquire a training that ensures later success at the world’s best universities. Teachers produce research at par with international standards, visiting and interacting with the faculty at leading centres abroad. Faculty from those centres, in turn, visit such a university, on lecture tours or longer fellowships. Exchange programmes, joint teaching and research programmes, perhaps even joint degrees are set up with universities abroad. These institutional links are supported (and often initiated) by wide personal interaction between faculty. This may seem familiar and unexciting, for several universities across India — both Central and state-run — have long reached this level, and sustain it as a matter of course.

It would not strike them as a pretext for drum-beating. They are naturally demoralized when by bureaucratic fiat and media prejudice, their achievement is ignored, their further potential aborted, and their funds and powers grow more and more elusive, while immense sums are diverted elsewhere on hypothetical grounds. That demoralization affects both recruitment and performance. We are dismantling a working, if creaky and rusted, structure, to erect a new one at astronomically greater cost, of an untested design that simply may not materialize. Let it not be like those actual constructions at State largesse that benefit none but the contractors. There is anger and frustration on many of India’s most productive campuses. It is not owing to an unwillingness to adapt but a sense of redundancy, so that there is no point in adapting and no resources to do so. I am appalled to see outstanding colleagues at Jadavpur, heading internationally recognized centres, supplicating to Delhi babudom for meagre grants sanctioned long ago. Even purely academic visits to Delhi, rewarding and comradely in themselves, are embittered by the iniquitous contrast with our lot back home. Successful teachers at a state-run campus are constantly asked, “Why don’t you join a Central university?” They are thereby led to campaign for Central status (as a group at Jadavpur are currently doing) as the only way to protect their interests. One would like to see the state of West Bengal, under its energetic leader, press the Union government for a more equitable deal for state-run universities. (The previous rulers, in spite of their litany of a stepmotherly Centre, hardly touched this issue.) Instead, we are seeing indeterminate moves at reproducing the all-India imbalance at state level, doubly compromised by empty coffers: there is little or no money for anyone at all. Even the career advancement scheme, the only carrot held out to state-funded faculty, is in abeyance for lack of funds. Current state policy on higher education eludes the seeker: the relevant committee report is not available on the internet. Meanwhile, starting with the pre-election freeze from February 2011, Bengal’s universities have been in virtual paralysis, their operations halted pending a structural reform still not complete. This need not have obviated a simultaneous process of policy planning, a blueprint for making Bengal India’s knowledge hub — an eminently feasible prospect, for which the grounds are already laid in non-geographical terms.

The reported plans to translate textbooks and hold common entrance tests do not address such ambitions. The silence bodes ill even for Presidency University, the one institution exempted from the general fate but, as yet, virtually not in being. Its mentor group has rendered signal service by bidding openly, for the first time ever, for international standards in higher education in Bengal. As indicated above, other institutions may have attained such standards, but piecemeal and on sufferance, without formal recognition by the establishment and sometimes in the teeth of opposition. Such was the record of the last 34 years, as earlier of the British raj. It remains to be seen whether the present government agrees to tolerate excellence with good grace wherever it occurs. For Presidency, the mentor group’s report can only be the first step. Presidency faces the daunting prospect of validating a seal of excellence bestowed on it in advance. The task will be made harder by a policy vacuum and overall academic demoralization across the state. Until the general vacuum is removed, Presidency cannot set about the crucial task of defining itself in relation to its home community.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

South Korea will help financially for Nalanda international university

India and South Korea on Sunday decided to expand their political and security cooperation besides upgrading the already booming business ties to achieve an ambitious trade target of USD 40 billion by 2015.

During his talks with President Lee Myung-bak, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted that bilateral trade had risen by 65 per cent over the past two years since the two countries implemented the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

"We have therefore set a new target of USD 40 billion by 2015. We also agreed to accelerate work in progress to upgrade the Agreement and make it more ambitious," Singh told reporters after wide-ranging talks with Lee.

Since the implementation of CEPA from January 1, 2010, bilateral trade had crossed USD 20 billion mark in 2011. Today's announcement enhances the trade target set by the leaders to USD 40 billion by 2015 as against USD 30 billion by 2015 as decided earlier.

Responding to Lee's call, Singh agreed to expand the political and security cooperation between the two countries. "With this objective in mind, I informed President Lee of India's decision to position a Defence Attache at our Embassy here in Seoul before the end of the year," he said.

"India has also offered to launch Korean satellites on Indian space launch vehicles," Singh said. Singh and Lee also agreed to enhance cooperation and coordination on regional issues, including in the East Asia Summit process.

Singh arrived in Seoul on Saturday for a four-day visit to attend a Nuclear Security Summit. The two-day summit begins on Monday when world leaders will meet at over dinner.

The Prime Minister also invited Korean businessmen to invest in India in a big way and underlined that India was making a huge effort to upgrade its physical infrastructure. "We want the Korean companies to help us realise this objective and benefit from the opportunities provided by this," Singh said.

India and Korea also signed an agreement on simplifying visa procedures. This agreement will make travelling easier for business persons, the Prime Minister said.

Noting that companies such as LG, Hyundai and Samsung were already household names in India, Singh said he would like to see small and medium sized Korean companies also making India a base for their manufacturing.

Singh and Lee also discussed ways and means to enhance cooperation between our scientists and technicians, including how to operationalise a joint Science and Technology Fund of USD 10 million.

Singh also updated his host of the development in the re-establishment of the Nalanda University and that he looked forward to Korean participation in the project.

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