The inscrutable Nalanda silence of Nitish Kumar
By Ajay Kumar - PATNA
Published: 17th Jun 2012 10:16:41 AM
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seems to have double standards dealing with controversies that continue to dog two of the state’s prestigious universities: the Central University of Bihar (CUB) and the Nalanda International University (NIU). After locking horns with the central government over the continuing and contentious issue as to where to locate the main CUB campus—Motihari or Gaya—Nitish is uncharacteristically silent on the kerfuffles that keep appearing with uncomfortable regularity involving the NIU.
The Indian Constitution says the Centre has the right to open a central university anywhere in the country. The concerned state has no say in the matter. Yet Nitish has made the location of CUB—Motihari and not Gaya—a prestige issue for no apparent reason. He was stridently vocal over setting up of a branch of the Aligarh Muslim University—also a central university—in Bihar. The CM hasn’t even responded to the criticism by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs on the varsity’s functioning. The Standing Committee was chaired by senior MP Ananth Kumar of the BJP and also included Shivanand Tiwari of the Janata Dal (United).
Academics in Patna attribute Nitish’s silence on Nalanda to the fact that it is coming up in his home district, Nalanda. Heavy hitters wield considerable clout in university matters; the powerful former bureaucrat and JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP N K Singh is part of the Mentor Group of the NIU. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen is the chairman of the Group—now called Governing Board—and has a good rapport with the chief minister.
Nitish’s silence on the university’s affairs is deafening. Nalanda is the brainchild of Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, with whom Nitish had a warm meeting in Patna late last week. But when the former president quit as Visitor last year, the Bihar media, controlled by Nitish, completely blacked it out. Ironically, the news became public only when a former media person mailed Kalam on developments regarding NIU and was told Kalam is no more the Visitor.
The CM is also silent over the controversial appointment of a Reader of a Delhi University college, Gopa Sabharwal, as the Vice-Chancellor of NIU with retrospective effect. As per the UGC criteria, only a Professor with work experience—and not a Reader—can be appointed as the V-C of any university. Nitish has kept schtum when the NIU set up its office not in Nalanda, or even in Patna, but in R K Puram, New Delhi.
Academics question how a university can be run from 1,100 km away. Nitish hasn’t bothered to enquire why the Centre is paying Gopa `5,06,513 per month as salary; nearly double the amount the V-C of Delhi University gets. Gopa and seven of her associates have been drawing their salaries since October 2010; the Union government formally confirmed her as the V-C of the NIU only in April 2012. Nitish hasn’t bothered to question the Ministry of External Affairs which confirmed her appointment either.
The Bihar government has reduced the land allotment to NIU from 1,000 acres to 500 acres. Nitish, however, refuses to comment.