The embryonic Nalanda University, the brainchild of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and its Chancellor Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and the UPA is in a class of its own. The Rs 1,005 crore university, which is to at last start functioning by December this year after many false starts, has no office buildings or classrooms. Yet, this doesn’t prevent its management and faculty members from living the good life: they are exempted from paying income tax and enjoy financial autonomy, even if they are Indian citizens. An agreement, signed between the governing board’s chairman Amartya Sen and former foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai, grants the university staff the right to import personal items including vehicles, free of customs duties and levies.
Glasnost is not Nalanda’s driving philosophy—the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) will not be allowed to question financial decisions taken by the university board after auditing the books. Sen, along with Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon were present at the meeting held in PMO on February 15, 2012 where the decision was taken. “In so far as the ongoing audit of CAG of the university is concerned, MEA will at the earliest write to the CAG clarifying that as per the act, the Governing Board has the full authority to take the decisions that it did and that the board acted within the powers enjoyed by it under the act,” a PMO note on the subject, available with The Sunday Standard said. The University is run without the approval of the Finance Ministry, and neither has the MEA, which administrates it, submitted an appraisal to the ministry.
Unclear Status, Ample Funds: At a time when the government has cut the higher education spending by 16 per cent, Nalanda has no problems with financial autonomy. The PMO has decided that, “Nalanda University should be given maximum possible financial and administrative autonomy.