Guest column | Khalsa University: A tale of politics and lost opportunity
In keeping with his party’s promise in the run-up to the 2017 elections, the Capt Amarinder Singh government has scrapped the Khalsa University. This step was taken despite the fact that the university has been functioning for nearly a year, and has hundreds of research scholars, many of them UGC-NET qualified, and post-graduate students on its rolls.punjab Updated: Apr 25, 2017 11:57 IST
In keeping with his party’s promise in the run-up to the 2017 elections, the Capt Amarinder Singh government has scrapped the Khalsa University. This step was taken despite the fact that the university has been functioning for nearly a year, and has hundreds of research scholars, many of them UGC-NET qualified, and post-graduate students on its rolls.
The political decision of the new government has indeed impaired the young Punjabi minds. Punjab, with a youthful population of over 30 million, is in a dire need of more universities. At present, its youth flock to countries like Australia, which has multiple universities in every city. While Sydney has nine universities, Melbourne has eight.
POOR STUDENT AND COLLEGE RATIO
But when it comes to academic institutions, Punjab compares poorly even with Haryana, forget the national average. According to Niti Udyog, for every 100 students that pass out in Punjab, 22.7 get the opportunity for higher education. Haryana, on the other hand, has a ratio of 28.7 per hundred. There is thus a huge potential for many more centres of higher learning in Punjab.
The Badals took more than nine years to sanction the Khalsa University. The proposals were whetted many times and all regulations/ legal issues were resolved. The Chief Khalsa Diwan, Khalsa College alumni, Akal Takht, Sant Samaj, Punjabi NRIs and even the neighbouring Guru Nanak Dev University ratified the proposal, and hailed the new university.
Although educational institutions are secular in nature, the Punjab government’s decision is also an affront to the Sikh community’s aspirations to set up a Khalsa university. In the early 1900s, the British sanctioned Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University. But the promised Khalsa university at this very site was disallowed because the Sikhs were at the forefront of India’s fight for independence. Khalsa College students and faculty went as far as refusing to let the Prince of Wales enter the college premises in 1921, and thus lost the chance to get a university of their own. Since then, Khalsa College has been aspiring to be a university. For 31 years, the royal family of Patiala, including Capt Amarinder Singh and his forefathers, have been chancellors of the Khalsa College Society. They presided over the governing council, which has passed numerous resolutions seeking a university.
NO DENT TO KHALSA COLLEGE
Contrary to the canards being spread, the university was in no way diluting the heritage status and separate identity of Khalsa College. This is the reason why 54 acres on Ram Tirath Road were designated for this university, with separate infrastructure and entrance.
The Punjab government has, in recent years, allowed academic non-entities, such as real estate companies, auto-parts manufacturers and even sweet makers to set up universities despite their lack of any core capability in the field of academics. But, it has chosen to undo the university project of the Khalsa College Charitable Society, which has served the region remarkably since 1892.
BLOW TO KHALSA SOCIETY
The society has been a forward-looking governing body with more than 100 stalwarts from all political hues and social milieus. It is not a fiefdom of any particular family or individual, but a stellar contributor to the cause of education in Punjab for 125 years without any bias or prejudice. It has 21 institutions of learning, including colleges of humanities, sciences, pharmacy, law, veterinary sciences, education, et al. Fourteen new colleges have come up in the last 11 years. It is unfortunate that an academic institution with such a broad-based academic profile has been singled out and its onward progress severely hindered.
Scrapping the Khalsa University Act defies logic. It seems a few vested interests and disgruntled political elements ill-advised the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues. The negative ramifications of this decision are manifold. And the remedy is still with the captain of the Punjab ship, presently dry docked with a huge debt and multi-faceted problems.
(The writer is a prominent citizen of Amritsar. The views expressed are personal)