Patna University, cradle of Bihar politics, fights off a thoroughfare
The issue relates to the development of Krishnaghat road to connect with upcoming Ganga Path along the Ganga river for which PU has been asked to transfer land.
In the heat and dust of Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, Patna University (PU), the seventh oldest university in the country and cradle of Bihar politics that has produced leaders like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sushil Modi, Ashwinin Choubey and many others, is simmering for a different reason.
The issue relates to the development of Krishnaghat road to connect with upcoming Ganga Path along the Ganga river for which PU has been asked to transfer land. The Patna University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) has raised concerns on this and has written to the vice chancellor not to transfer the land, as a busy public road through the institution’s campus could damage its sanctity and might lead to demolition of heritage buildings like Minto and Cavendish hostels.
In a letter on February 28, the Patna district magistrate asked for no objection from PU for the transfer of land. Earlier on February 6 also, the Bihar state road development corporation Limited had written in this regard to PU.
Maintaining that the university has had to already part with considerable land by way of transfer of its dispensary, a portion of Saidpur campus and a big stretch near Ranighat, PUTA leaders said that further pruning its campus would open the doors for more such demands in future, raising a question mark over the existence of PU’s majestic campus on the banks of the Ganga.
PUTA has decided to write to both of the NDA candidate Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Grand Alliance most likely nominee Shatrughan Sinha, also alumni of PU, apart from the Governor-cum-chancellor Lalji Tandon and chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Former Bihar Congress president Anil Sharma, who was PUTA president from 1980-84, said a heritage like PU needed to be protected and not pruned in the name of development. “The government should explore other alternatives and not test PU’s patience,” he added.
PUTA president Randhir Kumar Sinha said it was unfortunate that an institution having completed 100 years was being gradually and systematically reduced with one request after another for land in the last couple of years. “During its centenary year celebration, none other than the chief minister had demanded central university status for PU, which was turned down by PM Narendraa Modi. Now the government wants land from PU. It should have explored connectivity options before starting the Ganga Path project,” he added.
Urging the VC not to transfer the land, PUTA has written that movement of heavy transport vehicles and passenger vehicles would cause campus disorder. “Besides, three old and prominent girls’ hostels and two boys’ hostels are located adjacent to the proposed road, which is at present used for university’s internal communication. When PM had come, it was the internal road that was used for his movement. Department of chemistry, exam hall and other heritage buildings are also located next to it,” said PUTA, adding the employees and students’ unions were also one on this.
“We request you not to transfer the assets of PU, which it got through donations, to the government. The government should work on some alternative ways,” said PUTA, citing how similar demands during the tenure of former PU VC YC Simhadri were turned down in the interest of the institution.
PU VC Rash Bihari Prasad Singh said that he would discuss the matter with the government. “Many people have met me and voiced their concerns. They have cited genuine problems, as adjacent buildings will have to be demolished to make room for a public road bisecting the campus. I will request the government,” he added.
A few years ago, the girls of Bihar’s premiere Magadh Mahila College had in 2013 staged protest against blockage of the college gate due to mega infrastructure projects planned in the vicinity, much to the annoyance of the state government. The government, however, prevailed and earlier this year assured construction of a multi-storied state-of-the-art building and 800-bed hostel for the college to assuage the ruffled feelings.