KOLKATA: Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan Visva Bharati University in Birbhum district of West Bengal has got sharply divided over the management’s plan to set up a ‘gaushala’ to accommodate 200 cows.
The decision, made by the pro vice-chancellor of the university Swapan Dutta, has been criticised by the teachers’ association as an appeasement of the Hindutva bandwagon ruling the Centre.
“The pro vice-chancellor is ignoring pressing issues such as lack of infrastructure in terms of poor accommodation for teachers and students, water scarcity, inadequate libraries and diverting funds for building a gaushala to appease the central government and get his ad hoc position secured into a permanent position,” Visva Bharati University Faculty Association (VBUFA) president Sudipta Bhattacharya told The New Indian Express.
VBUFA boasts the membership of over 350 faculty members of the varsity.
“We were completely kept in the dark about the plans to establish a gaushala. The matter should have been presented to the academic council and discussed thoroughly. Most importantly, according to guidelines issued by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and UGC (University Grants Commission), the pro vice-chancellor can’t issue appointments or decide on policy matters. He is violating the directive and conducting both appointments and interfering with policy matters,” he added.
On the other hand, pro vice-chancellor Swapan Dutta refused to call the proposed cowshed as a gaushala and said the plan was taken to develop the rural neighbourhoods of the university.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, he said: “This is not a gaushala. We are reviving a dairy farm which existed since the times of Rabindranath Tagore. It degraded and got reduced to only three cows and functioned that way for more than 26 years. When the NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) wanted to see the dairy farm, we thought that we should revive it. We have been working on the dairy farm for the past two years and now have 19 cows. Patha Bhavan (school establishment) has a necessity of 90 litres of milk every day but presently we have a production of only 20 litres. A dairy farm is the minimum requirement of our university and we would definitely expand it in the future. Benaras Hindu University (BHU) has 500 cows, so 200 cows are actually not such a big number."
“It is very unfortunate that people are questioning my jurisdiction and the move to expand the dairy farm. The people protesting get a salary based on my signature and they say that I can’t buy a few cows for educational purposes on our dairy farm? Why are they not questioning establishment of poultry, duck rearing and our plans for the establishment of fisheries? By linking this move with some ideology, they are questioning Rabindranath Tagore. This move is directed at developing the infrastructure of rural areas around Sriniketan and would ultimately benefit the economy of the region,” he added.