NEW DELHI: Indicating that former Nobel Laureate will continue to have a major role, newly-appointed Nalanda university chancellor, George Yeo, a former Singapore foreign minister confirmed that Amartya Sen will continue to serve on the Governing Board.
In an emailed answer to Express, Yeo said, “great honour to be put up by the Governing Board and be appointed by the Visitor”.
The ministry of external affairs announced on May 30 that Yeo will be succeeding Sen as the chairman of the board from July 17.
“I can't fill Amartya's shoes but will try my best to further his good work and to support staff, students and stakeholders in making Nalanda worthy of its name and a light to the world,” he said.
In an answer to a question from Express on the future role of Sen, he replied, “I'm greatly relieved that Prof Amartya Sen will continue serving on the Board”.
Sen had withdrawn himself in February, after complaining that the government had sat over the governing board’s recommendation to nominate him for a second term. The noted economist said that this was as perhaps the government’s way of showing that it wanted a change of guard.
However, MEA had officially claimed after Sen’s letter was made public that the reason for the slow response was the delay in circulating the minutes of the board meeting in January.
The external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had welcomed the appointment pointing out that Yeo “played a key role in setting up Nalanda University”. “Great choice by Rashtrapatiji,” she had tweeted on June 1.
Incidentally, both Swaraj and Yeo stressed that the Nalanda University project was “international” in character. “It is East Asia Summit initiative,” Swaraj noted, pointedly.
Similarly, Yeo had said, “Nalanda University is an international project supported by the East Asia Summit countries (India, ASEAN 10, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, US and Russia) and financed by the Indian Government”.
Earlier speaking to Express after Yeo’s appointment, Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP and governing board member Sugata Bose had been elated. He had been one of the trenchant critic of the government for creating the circumstances for Sen not remaining as board chairman.
“I am personally delighted… This means that Nalanda’s international character and the principle of university autonomy will be protected, as George Yeo is committed to them,” he hoped.
Bose told Express that the Yeo’s name, along with two other candidates as required by law, was forwarded after the last governing board meeting in early May, chaired by Amartya Sen. “The governing board had recommended Yeo very enthusiastically,” he said.
Yeo will have several challenges ahead of him, specifically to ensure that the construction of the permanent campus starts soon. In March, public Sector company, Mecon India had been appointed as the project management consultants.
In its report tabled in parliament in April, parliamentary standing committee on external affairs had recommended that MEA should “fix the responsibility” for the delay in the start of construction. Further, the panel suggested that the ministry should stream not just the construction process, with status report of the project along with times to be furnished to the committee “on regular basis”.