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Is rising to PM Modi’s challenge too big a task for a struggling Patna University?

Instead of granting its wish for a central university status, Modi had asked PU to compete for becoming one of the top 10 government sector universities and become eligible for huge funding from the centre.

patna Updated: Oct 15, 2017 20:20 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
PM Modi,Patna University,Top slot challenge
Speaking at a PU function on Saturday, PM Narender Modi ihad asked it to compete for top varsity slot. (HT file photo)

Still struggling to get over the disappointment caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on its hope of securing the ‘central university’ status for Patna university, its administration cannot be oblivious of the fact it had an an uphill task in meeting the challenge thrown at it by the PM.

With RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and Congress MLC Ashok Choudhary backing CM Nitish Kumar in pressing for announcement of central university status for PU, the disappointment caused by the PM’s silence on the subject was massive.

Instead of granting the wish, articulated strongly from the dais by the CM himself, Modi had asked PU to compete for becoming one of the top 10 government sector universities and become eligible for huge funding from the centre.

Sources said behind the PM’s silence on the subject was a policy decision taken by the centre in 2015. “The Ministry of human resource development has taken a policy decision not to convert state universities into central universities for reasons of legacy issues, adjustment of existing staff and disaffiliation of affiliated colleges,” says the 2015 notification.

As the dust settled after the PM’s visit, realization has started dawning upon the authorities that bring PU up to the challenge thrown by the PM is mammoth in the prevailing situation, given the huge gap between it and top universities of the country.

“Though it is the smallest and best maintained among Bihar’s universities – academically as well as administratively – the fact is that it would require a Herculean effort and strong will on part of the government and the chancellor to prepare it for the competition.

“PU has the legacy, but it would require the right stimulus to come up to the mark. If the PU get up looks improved, it is because the government spent Rs 4-crore to spruce it up ahead of the PM’s visit,” said PUTA president Randhir Kumar Sinha.

Sinha said that in the present situation, PU, with its vast infrastructural deficiencies, 30% teaching strength and lack of policy on non-teaching posts, including those lab technicians and demonstrators, competing for the top slot would be sheer wishful thinking.

“This holds true not just for PU, but for all state universities in north India,” he added.

Former PUTA president PK Poddar said public institutions working in a backward state needed encouragement to aspire for bigger goals. “These institutions are running with fee structure of 1950s and girls’ education is free, but the colleges have to avail electricity through pre-paid electricity meters. When the money ends, power trips, plunging institutions into darkness,” he said.

Poddar said he was the sole teacher of history in the department at Patna’s BN College. “Even political science, zoology and statistics departments have just one teacher each. The scenario is similar in other colleges, too. In a welfare state, universities cannot grow on their own, nor can private universities be the answer,” he added.

At present, PU has just 316 teachers against the sanctioned strength of 815, which came down from 825 following the de-linking of intermediate course. “Even maintaining the spruced up campus is tough owing to the huge shortage of non-teaching staff and resources,” said an official.

JD-U spokesman Neeraj Kumar said Bihar had got two central universities – central university of Bihar and central university of South Bihar, after over six decades and relentless efforts of the state government.

“We feel PU deserves the central university status and we will keep raising the demand at the right platforms. We will do what we can,” he added.

First Published: Oct 15, 2017 20:20 IST