Prez Cracks The Whip on Nalanda University To Get It Moving Fast
By Devirupa Mitra - NEW DELHI
Published: 16th Feb 2014 09:38:32 AM
Three years later, the Nalanda University dream is moving at a snail’s pace. President Pranab Mukherjee has cracked the whip and ordered the appointment of a chief executive officer for the University for the first time. He has also asked that the office staff be transferred to the temporary campus in Rajgir. So far, senior University officials like VC Gopa Sabharwal have remained in Delhi citing lack of proper infrastructure.
Last month, the secretary to the President, Omita Paul, wrote to foreign secretary Sujatha Singh to speed up the project in collaboration with South East Asian countries. The Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal agency for the varsity.
According to highly-placed sources, the letter from the President’s office is succinct and sharp, hinting that patience was running out at the highest levels. “It is rather unprecedented for the President to be taking so much interest in a new university to the extent of asking for a supervisor to be appointed for capital works,” said a senior government official. The key issue facing the university right now is the continuance of the 12-member Nalanda Mentors’ Group (NMG), led by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. It had assumed the powers and responsibilities of the governing board after the Nalanda University Act came into force in November 2010.
According to the Act, the board was supposed to govern just for one year. The third indefinite extension was on November 21, 2013, till the appointment of a new governing board.
The standing committee’s report, suggesting several changes, was submitted in December 2013. The Ministry had accepted some of its recommendations. But, due to the paucity of time, it was not listed in the legislative schedule for the second part of the winter session which began on February 5. PMO sources confirmed they have already started the process of selecting and governing board members but since it requires consultation with member countries, it may take time.
Nalanda University officials insist that the delay is due to Ministry of External Affairs red tape, but the letter from the President’s office deems the explanation as superfluous.With the polls looming large and change in government imminent, there was talk about promulgating an ordinance, but it did not gain traction as BJPwould not support the idea.
After a trimming exercise last year, the total project cost is now Rs 2,727 crore, out of which Rs 1,749.65 crore is for capital expenditure, while Rs 9,77.45 crore is the recurring cost. On January 20, Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs gave its approval for 12 years from 2010-11. One of the perennial complaints of the parliamentary panel has been that the University has not spent its allocated budget indicating a lack of capacity and ability to implement projects. This financial year, out of its largest ever allocation of Rs 125 crore 2013, only Rs 4.15 crore is spent.
Sources say the Comptroller and Auditor General has raised objection on payments to vice chancellor Gopa Sabharwal and senior official Anjana Sharma. Sabharwal, meanwhile dismissed the President's letter as "routine."