PATNA: In a major intervention to ensure “greater excellence and innovation” in the country’s higher education institutions Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs 10,000 crore fund to 20 universities across the country for next five years, with a vision to make them “world-class” institutions.
“Top 10 public and private universities will be freed from all government control and get Rs 10,000 crore over five years. All these universities have to do is to demonstrate their potential to become world-class institutions,” Modi said during his address at the centenary celebration of Patna University (PU).
He said that the 20 universities will be not selected by him, or a chief minister or any other political figure, instead their potential will be assessed through a contest judged by a third party.
The announcement came after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar requested the center to grant central status to the PU – country’s seventh old university.
Even as the PM extolled Bihar’s historically high standing as a land of knowledge, saying the state’s “heritage of knowledge is as old as the flow of the Ganga, on whose banks Patna University stands,” he gently rejected the demand for central university status to this institution.
“I think central university status is a talk of a bygone era. I want to take it a step higher,” Modi said, before announcing Rs 10,000 crore funds to 20 varsities.
He is the first prime minister to visit the 100-year-old Patna University.
There was high hope among Bihar’s people, especially the academia, that Modi would fulfill this longstanding demand during this visit.
Modi’s indifference to Nitish Kumar’s demand to grant Patna University central status quickly lent itself to a political slugfest in Bihar. The state’s main Opposition RJD portrayed it as the PM’s “royal snub” to the CM and Bihar’s people.
“This is BJP’s punishment to Nitish for his past political betrayal. This is Modi’s royal snub to Nitish and Biharis’ educational aspirations,” said senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwary.
Congress leader and former Bihar education minister Ashok Chaudhary said while the 20 world-class universities plan is “a great step”, Patna University should have been allowed to enter the contest as a central university.