Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has urged the Centre to protect the academic autonomy of Nalanda University and maintain continuity so that it can achieve the objective of becoming a global institution of excellence.
In a letter to minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj, Kumar has said “the essence behind the idea of Nalanda should not be tampered with and its importance should be kept in perspective while furthering its activities”.
“Nalanda University is an attempt to recreate the ancient Nalanda, which epitomised knowledge and learning across the world and its spirit should be preserved. Consultations with all the stakeholders and distinguished scholars will help in reestablishing the glory. The university will flourish only if its academic autonomy is maintained. The continuance of the people associated with NU since its inception is need to maintain continuity and progress,” the CM has written.
Recently, a controversy erupted after former Singapore foreign minister George Yeo resigned as the Nalanda University chancellor. Yeo alleged that the autonomy of the institute was hurt. Yeo said he was “not even given notice” of a leadership change after the government reconstituted the board and severed Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s association with the university.
Dwelling on the journey of NU since its conceptualisation and the enacting of a law for it in 2007, which was repealed after the central law was enacted in 2010, Kumar has written that all the assets of NU were subsequently transferred to the central government.
“The university made commendable progress under leadership of Sen, Yeo and Lord Meghnad Desai. Now, Yeo has resigned citing central government intervention and for not being taken into confidence on constitution of a new board. The fact that an important decision was taken without consulting the chancellor is disturbing and raises question about the autonomous nature of the university,” he added.
The chief minister has also raised the alleged delay in carrying out the amendments to the NU Act, which was said to be required for constituting the governing board. “So far, there has been no amendment, but the board has been constituted without due consultation. This has affected the prestige and credibility of NU and all the stakeholders are worried about the direction it is headed to,” he added.
On November 21, the Centre issued the notification reconstituting the NU governing board, with no place for founding chancellor Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen and others who were part of the Nalanda mentor group that continued as the governing board for six years due to delay in its constitution.
On November 24, the one year extension granted to NU’s founding vice chancellor Gopa Sabharwal ended and as per the provisions in the act, the senior most dean took over as interim VC till a new VC is appointed. The process for the appointment of a new VC had been initiated in October itself and the governing board wanted Sabharwal to continue till the process was completed.
The very next day of the constitution of the governing board, an upset NU chancellor George Yeo also quit.
“The order dissolving the governing board (GB) and creating a new one came as a complete surprise to me and to most members. I was neither involved in the preparation nor consulted beforehand. The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the University’s development,” Yeo had said in his statement.