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Move to set up Khalsa University stirs up political trouble

punjab Updated: Feb 02, 2016 11:37 IST
Mayo School of Arts

The governing council claims that serving the cause of education is the main aim behind setting up the university.(Gurpreet Singh/HT )

The Khalsa College governing council’s (KCGC’s) move to set up Khalsa University in Amritsar has kicked up a political row a year ahead of the Punjab assembly polls, uniting the main opposition parties -- the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

It was in 2011 that the KCGC had first initiated this move, under which the 123-year old heritage building of the college was to be turned into a university. However, the authorities had to put the ambitious project on the backburner after a three-month-long agitation by teachers of Khalsa College and other institutions.

The fresh initiative by the 101-member KCGC, headed by Satyajit Singh Majithia, father of Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, has also come under fire.

The state Congress, led by Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh, and AAP are apprehensive that the university would dilute the college’s heritage status. AAP also fears that an attempt can be made by the ruling Badals and Majithias to take control of the college’s properties.

Read: Majithias have business interest in project, says Captain

However, the KCGC has been repeatedly saying that Khalsa College’s iconic identity and heritage status would remain untouched as the university would be set up at a site away from the college building. The university’s administrative block would come up adjoining the campus of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), more than 500 metres from the college building.

The governing council claims that serving the cause of education is the main aim behind setting up the university. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, during his address at the Khalsa College convocation in 2013, had said, “This college belongs to the quam (community), not to any individual or family.”

With Amarinder announcing to stage a dharna outside the college if efforts are made to subvert its heritage character and the Aam Aadmi Party Volunteer Front, an AAP splinter group, threatening to launch a protest outside the campus, the political slugfest over the issue is set to intensify in the run-up to the 2017 elections.

Job-oriented courses

It will be a professional university offering about 30 job-oriented courses in aviation, law and other fields. The main focus will be on information technology,” said deputy director, public relations, KCGC, Dharmendra Rataul.

He claimed that Khalsa College would continue to run all its existing courses and departments. The cultivation area used for research by the agriculture department will also remain with the college, he added.

Under its expansion plan for the next five years, the KCGC aims to bring the existing Khalsa College of Engineering and College of Education (both located in Ranjit Avenue here) under the university.

Rataul said the university could become operational from the next academic session after all approvals were in place.

A three-member team of the state government has already visited the site and examined the plans of the KCGC, which is awaiting the letter of intent from the government.

Teachers’ concerns

College teachers are worried that the authorities might decide to affiliate Khalsa College with the new university (the college is currently affiliated to GNDU). Speaking on the condition of anonymity, staff members and college union members said they could not trust the college management, which had tried to convert the institution into a university in 2011.

“That year, we raised our voice against the setting up of Khalsa University. Cases were registered against about 22 teachers. This time, we want transparency at all levels,” a section of college teachers said.

What’s in store

University’s administrative block will be build near the Khalsa College for Law

Existing Khalsa College for Women and the Khalsa colleges of education, law, pharmacy and veterinary sciences will be affiliated to the new university

Initially, three storeys of the law college will be used for the university’s administrative block. Entry to this block is from the Ram Tirath road (rearside of Khalsa College).

Steeped in history

Khalsa College’s foundation stone was laid in 1892, two years after the college’s governing council was set up. Starting as a school, it introduced graduation courses in 1911. The iconic building was designed by Ram Singh, a renowned architect of his time who also served as the principal of Mayo School of Arts, Lahore.

Read: People are doing politics over the issue, says KCGC president