Sunday, May 13, 2012

Panel spoils varsity office shift plan of Nalanda University !!

A parliamentary panel has slammed South Block and the Nalanda Mentor Group’s attempt to set up an important department of the upcoming Nalanda University in New Delhi and not in Bihar.

In its report tabled in both the Houses on the functioning of the external affairs ministry (MEA), the parliamentary standing committee directed the ministry to review its plan to have a school of international studies and a project office in Delhi.

In the report tabled on May 8, the committee recommended that the school “be set up on the main university campus”. The report did not name Nalanda University vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal but “desire(d) that the responsibility to develop this institution should be given to those who are devoted, genuine and committed to make selfless efforts for development of this prime institution while sitting at the location of the institution and certainly not in Delhi”.

It said it was “not at all convinced with the reasons furnished by” the MEA about the location of the school and project office in Delhi. The committee “strongly” felt that the idea to set up the school and project office in Delhi “will defeat the very purpose of setting up the Nalanda University and are against the spirit of the idea of setting up of the university at the ancient place of knowledge”.

The MEA had put forth the governing board of the university’s reasons to shift its VC’s office and the school to New Delhi in front of the committee. The board has cited lack of toilet facilities, sewage connections, water supply and other basic amenities in Rajgir as reasons for the shift.

MEA officials had told the parliamentary committee that having a project office in Delhi would make it easier for its officials to interact with the university. They also argued that the roads between Patna and Rajgir were very narrow and congested and it can take upto five hours to cover the nearly 100km stretch.

In the governing board meeting, it was argued that the VC office and its staff cannot function out of the building in Rajgir provided by the Bihar government as a camp office because of the absence of toilet and sewage facility and that extensive construction work is required to make the premises habitable. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen heads the governing board.

Responding to media reports that she was trying to shift the vice-chancellor’s office to Delhi, Sabarwal said such reports were based on certain presumptions, which were far from truth. “The commitment of the governing board and the university to Rajgir and Bihar is unquestionable and absolute. University officials are frequently in Rajgir and also Patna, and are closely monitoring the progress on the site and on other related issues. The fact that the university is launching its academic programme with the schools of historical studies and ecology and environment, proves beyond doubt that Nalanda University is rooted in its setting. Both schools have a resonance with a rich historical legacy of Bihar and the bucolic setting of the university,” she said.

On the plan to set up the school of international relations and peace studies in Delhi, she said it was too early to talk about a school that is not being set up in the immediate future. “The justification for having some part of that school in Delhi, when it is founded, is that the Diplomatic Corps and the MEA are both in Delhi and it makes sense for Nalanda University to draw upon both these groups for the school,” she said.

“Moreover our Act permits that the university can open centres anywhere in India or abroad,” Sabharwal told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi.

She said that an office of the university needed to be set up at Delhi because it was an international project and having an office was a must for liaison purpose. “We want to make things clear at the outset that the university would be located very much in Bihar and there was no point making an issue out of things which are being done at present to secure the foundations of the project,” added the VC.

The parliamentary panel also berated the MEA for projecting a huge outlay of nearly Rs 600 crore for the university for the fiscal 2012-13. The Planning Commission approved only Rs 15 crore for the sam fiscal.

The BJP MP Ananth Kumar-headed committee “noted” that during the 11th Five Year Plan period, there were several instances of the plan panel making “inadequate allocations”. It blamed the MEA for making “inappropriate projections” that led to the Planning Commission allocating less funds.

The committee said it was “dismayed to observe the lack of progress” on Nalanda University. It said it was “not at all convinced by the ministry’s justification in making such huge projections” of Rs 598.5 crore for 2012-13 when the university is yet to embark on the Global Designs Competition.

The parliamentary panel said it was “concerned about the contents of the curriculum and the standards and quality of the academic courses to be introduced in the Nalanda University”.

It said the university should emerge as a valuable resource for promotion of studies and research in oriental cultures, literary tradition and languages and civilization based on the native knowledge systems and it should act as a living repository of cultural and literary traditions of the region.
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