Gains in Transition
BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY
In the searing mid- May heat of the plains, Banaras Hindu University ( BHU) is an oasis of calm, an antithesis to the chaos that lies right outside its arched gateway. Its tree- lined avenues and pale- yellow temple architecture is a relief from the constant human traffic that crowds the ancient streets of Varanasi. The university, a brainchild of freedom fighter and social reformer Madan Mohan Malviya, was established in 1916. It is considered to be the perfect synthesis of the teachings of Hindu culture and modern technology and industry, a romantic notion of synchronicity between the East and the West.
Spread over 1,350 acres, BHU is also Asia’s largest residential campus and incorporates within its sphere courses as diverse as linguistics, musicology, bio- technology and management. The goal at BHU, as every introductory leaflet, vision plan and prospectus about the place states, is “the synergy of teaching and research”. Thus the first task that Lalji Singh, 64, an alumnus of BHU and its current vice- chancellor ( VC), undertook was to encourage research by letting students work round the clock. Singh, who has made a name for himself in the field of genetics and DNA fingerprinting, took over in August 2011. Having taught in the Institute of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh for 13 years, he is now keen on fostering a spirit of independent research at BHU. “I made sure facilities were kept open for enthusiasts who wanted to keep working by appointing night watchmen,” he says. It may seem like a small step but it’s all part of his mega- plan to make BHU one of the best research facilities in the world. In this regard, BHU presented its case to the University Grants Commission in January 2012 and won the status of ‘ University with the Potential of Excellence’, a grant that will give them Rs 50 crore over five years.
“My dream is to set up an institute of translational research that transforms knowledge into technology that aids society. We have petitioned for a Rs 1,000- crore investment from the Planning Commission for translational research that will bring together IT experts, biotechnologists, agriculturalists and social scientists. The idea is to let every sector contribute to the development of another,” says Singh.
What sets BHU apart from other universities is its definite slant towards empowering the disenfranchised. They call it their Malviyan principle of providing world- class amenities to the economically backward at lower cost. In addition to being less expensive than other Central universities in the country, it pays a monthly stipend of Rs 5,000 to its research scholars. Then there’s also an annual scholarship of Rs 2,000 for 100 economically backward students.
“It’s a good mix of the local and the global,” says Shruti Singh, 21, a finalyear student of Social Science at the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya, one of the five