The Punjab government's proposal to promote Giani Zail Singh Engineering College, Bathinda, to a technical varsity parallel to Punjab Technical University (PTU) has attracted sharp criticism from different quarters, including academicians and ABVP, the student outfit of the BJP.
The government has maintained that proposal would be tabled in the next session of the Vidhan Sabha for approval.
The move to set up Punjab's second technical university in Bathinda, the political bastion of the Badals, has apparently not gone down well with many here.
The government had taken this decision after overruling the detailed project report prepared by Punjab Technical University (PTU) officials following chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's directions last year.
Documents available with Hindustan Times reveal that the committee of experts headed by PTU vice-chancellor Rajnish Arora on August 30 last year had recommended to open a one-campus state-of-the-art technical university with special thrust on the industrial needs of the region.
"Even the chief minister was convinced with our proposal to convert the Bathinda-based engineering college into a deemed university. But we all were shocked when the government at the state cabinet meeting on July 9 announced that the college campus would be upgraded as another technical university that would run the colleges in parts of Malwa region," said a senior PTU official, who was part of the committee that prepared the DPR.
It has been learnt that a bill in this regard was scheduled to be tabled in the recently concluded assembly session but it was postponed due to opposition from the BJP.
Even as the BJP ministers who were part of the meeting are refusing to comments on the record, it is apparently clear that not many are in the favour of creating a parallel varsity of Punjab Technical University.
However, the student wing of the BJP, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), has announced that it would oppose the move tooth and nail.
"The experiment to govern the technical education colleges was done by the Uttar Pradesh government when Mayawati was chief minister but the Akhilesh Yadav-led government reverted the decision after it created chaos. In a small state like Punjab, setting up of another university has no meaning besides scoring brownie points politically. We will oppose the move at every front," said Suraj Bhardwaj, state organisation secretary of the ABVP.
Technical education minister Madan Mohan Mittal refused to comment on the issue citing model code of conduct in Bathinda due to the upcoming Talwandi Sabo bypoll.
Named as Maharaja Ranjit Singh State Technical University, the new varsity will have academic control over the colleges in Bathinda, Barnala, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Mansa, Muktsar, Patiala and Sangrur districts.
With around 50% of the seats in the colleges running under PTU already lying vacant, the government instead of improving the quality of education is busy in increasing numbers only, many feel.
There will be an increase in the number of seats once the second university comes into existence, experts opine.
"In my opinion, it is the time when intellectuals and policy-makers in Punjab should come up with ideas to start institutions of quality education.
We should start research-oriented universities and institutions to meet the demands of growing population of Punjab with limited resources. The government must give a fresh look at its proposal," said Kishore Luthra, PTU deputy registrar.
Rakesh Verma, secretary technical education, said the chief minister had made up his mind to open the new university at Bathinda and there was no need to rethink over the issue.