Bi­har var­sity stu­dents caught be­tween two cam­puses

The tus­sle over the lo­ca­tion of a Cen­tral univer­sity bodes ill for higher ed­u­ca­tion in the state, re­ports NI­RALA

Tehelka - - GAYA VS MOTIHARI -

GAYA AND Moti­hari oc­cupy two dif­fer­ent worlds in Bi­har. While Moti­hari prides it­self as the seat of Bho­jpuri in the state, Gaya has been Bi­har’s fount of knowl­edge since the Vedic times. Moti­hari, birth­place of Ge­orge Or­well, is where Gand­hiji started his Satya­graha move­ment. And it was in Gaya that prince Sid­dharth be­came Bud­hha.

How­ever, some re­cent de­vel­op­ments have brought things to a boil here. Bi­har might be busy rev­el­ling in its cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions, but the pro­vin­cial squab­bles of these two places are threat­en­ing to usurp the state’s place of pride.

At the heart of the con­flict lies the lo­ca­tion of the main cam­pus of a Cen­tral univer­sity. Union Hu­man Re­source De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Kapil Sibal wants it in Gaya, while CM Ni­tish Kumar in­sists it should be in Moti­hari. Caught in a bind in this spat are hap­less stu­dents of the univer­sity, which started its ses­sions from the Birla In­sti­tute of tech­nol­ogy ( BIT) premises in Patna three years ago.

Reg­u­lar dis­putes be­tween the ViceChan­cel­lor of the univer­sity and the BIT ad­min­is­tra­tion has led to the lat­ter threat­en­ing to evict them from the cam­pus.

“Bi­har needs not one, but four Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties,” avers state Hu­man Re­source Min­is­ter PK Shahi. Op­po­si­tion leader Raghu­vansh Prasad Singh of the RJD too echoes: “We should not only de­mand a Cen­tral var­sity in Gaya and Moti­hari, Patna Univer­sity should be ac­corded the same sta­tus too.” How­ever, Sibal has agreed that an ex­ten­sion of the Cen­tral univer­sity could be set up in Moti­hari.

His in­sis­tence on Gaya is not en­tirely base­less. The Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties set up by the HRD min­istry in the hin­ter­lands of Tamil Nadu and Odisha had ended up get­ting nei­ther stu­dents nor fac­ulty.

The Gaya-vs-moti­hari tus­sle be­gan in 2004, when the UPA- 1 had an­nounced the set­ting up of 15 Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try. One fell into Bi­har’s lap. Mean­while, dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of an en­gi­neer­ing col­lege in Moti­hari, Ni­tish Kumar an­nounced a Cen­tral univer­sity pack­age for Moti­hari, on the con­di­tion that the lo­cals pro­vided the land. The lo­cals read­ily agreed, and Ni­tish gave his stamp of ap­proval to the project.

A team was sent by the Cen­tre to study the fea­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a univer­sity there. But it re­jected the pro­posal, cit­ing back­ward­ness, dif­fi­culty in com­mut­ing, and pop­u­la­tion as rea­sons. The Cen­tre then pre­sented its al­ter­na­tive pro­posal of start­ing a Cen­tral univer­sity on army-owned land in Gaya. This set off an ego clash and a war of words be­tween the Cen­tre and Ni­tish, one that has now boiled over to a po­lit­i­cal moot point of los­ing pres­tige.

SIBAL AND Ni­tish are now play­ing to the gallery, but the odds are stacked against the chief min­is­ter. If ei­ther Gaya or Moti­hari is de­prived of an ex­i­gent so­lu­tion, the NDA al­liance will lose on po­lit­i­cal mileage. The coali­tion has a clear man­date in Moti­hari. Be­sides three MPS, it is sit­ting on nine of the 11 Assem­bly seats there. The Lok Sabha seat in Gaya is the BJP’S and nine out of 10 MLAS be­long to the NDA. The Congress, on the other hand, has noth­ing to lose, hence the Union HRD Min­is­ter’s seem­ingly de­lib­er­ate re­buff to the CM.

While the MPS from Bi­har scream hoarse about this al­leged af­front to Gand­hiji, who had spent some time in the erst­while Cham­paran dis­trict where Moti­hari lies, the 28 schools started by Gand­hiji in west Cham­paran lie in sham­bles. The model school of Ku­marbag, which was once the pride of Cham­paran, is also in ru­ins.

Gaya’s track record is no bet­ter. In spite of hav­ing the largest var­sity, Magadh Univer­sity, in the state, it has failed to turn it into a cen­tre of ex­cel­lence. Ed­u­ca­tion­ist Vi­nay Kanth says the clam­our for Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties in Bi­har is drown­ing out con­cerns for the ex­ist­ing var­si­ties that now rest only on past lau­rels. “Patna Univer­sity has no in­fra­struc­ture or the nec­es­sary fac­ulty. Bi­har’s gross en­rol­ment for higher stud­ies re­mains a dis­mal 8 per­cent; the na­tional av­er­age is 15. Who’s re­spon­si­ble for this?” asks Kanth.

Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties re­ceive 60 per­cent of the UGC’S bud­get while only 40 per­cent per­co­lates to the state-aided ones. This pol­icy only ex­ac­er­bates the sit­u­a­tion. “Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties are in­dis­pens­able, but we should re­alise we need to strengthen state uni­ver­si­ties too,” adds Kanth. Only then can Bi­har truly revel in its pride.

Tug of war Ni­tish and Kapil Sibal at Iit-patna

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