Modi-Nitish bonhomie

Arun Srivastava

Pretense of a perfect camaraderie and bonhomie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was shattered on the campus of the Patna University. The citizens of Bihar were made to believe that the visit of Modi to Patna University would usher the state into a new dawn of academic excellence that would change the dynamics as well as the dimension of the educational horizon in the state.
But the Prime Minister had a rude shock for Bihar and its people. His snub to Nitish’s folded handed request sent the message that everything was not right with Nitish and for his saffron friends he has lost the relevance and charm. The bonhomie which appeared at the surface level was merely a farce. Else, there was no tangible reason for Modi to reject his request in such terse style.
The occasion was the celebration of the hundred years of establishment of Patna University. The spruced up buildings and campus provided an insight into the pride and veneration of the University which had produced hundreds of academics, intellectuals and scholars of international repute. But unfortunately, during last three decades it has lost much of its sheen due to the contempt and ignorance of the rulers about the role and relevance of education in empowering the poor, particularly the oppressed and downtrodden women.
At the meeting Nitish Kumar passionately urged the Prime Minister to accord central university status to the Patna University to retrieve it from the morass and for restoring its past glory. But Modi, instead of lending his ear to the request, advised that the should compete among the 20 best public universities (ten private and 10 public universities) of the country to get a grant out of the Rs 10,000 crore from the central government and become a fully autonomous institution.
Modi asked Nitish to accept the challenge: “India is nowhere among top 500 universities of the government has put up a challenge to 10 private and 10 public universities to fulfill the criteria fixed by the government to get Rs 10,000 crore grant in five years and become a fully autonomous institution...Patna University too should take up the challenge and compete for it…it will go beyond its demand for the status of a central university. Patna University should also connect with its glorious list of alumna to regain its past glory…it happens everywhere.”
By implication he sent the loud and clear message that the rulers were responsible for the plight of Patna University and if at all they seriously intended to salvage the situation they must strive and act.
There is no doubt that the condition of the Patna University worsened beyond comprehension during the rule of Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar, admired by his supporters and friends as scholar and a modern day Chanakya. It is astonishing how a person like Nitish could allow the universities and institutions of higher education to be left in the lurch. Lalu might not have that vision, but being an engineer he ought to have adopted a proactive stance to save the universities. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he is more guilty than his predecessor.
Established on October 1, 1917, Patna University was once known as the “Oxford of The East”. But with the passage of time its past glory diminished and today it suffers from lack of teachers, staff, infrastructure and funds. “It is in a pathetic situation today”, commented BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha. The edifying instructive ambience stands completely ruined.
Modi’s response would have clearly disappointed Nitish: He reiterated “We are committed for the development of eastern states. I want to see Bihar among developed states by 2022 when the country will celebrate 75 years of independence. Bihar is the oldest custodian of intellect. This legacy is an inspiration by itself, which will sow the seed of further development”. But he refused to concede to his request. Instead he quipped: the selection of universities would be based on a challenge and not anyone’s recommendations. I hope Patna University would grab this opportunity with both hands". It was like showing the mirror to Nitish Kumar.
The condition of the universities in Bihar has been quite pathetic. There are only 320 teachers on the roll against the requirement of about 2000. The ratio comes to around 1 teacher for every 1000 students. About 4 lakh students have completed NET but they are not getting the opportunity to teach or do research. So they are forced to seek opportunities in places like Delhi. The Department of History, which was once the symbol of eminence and had genius like famous historian Prof Ram Sharan Sharma, at present has only 6 teachers against the vacancy of 25.
The callous attitude of successive governments has turned the university into a den for criminals. Almost all the hostels are under the control of these elements and the students have to abide by their dictates. The situation has worsened to such an extent that students prefer to hire private rooms outside. The security of the girls living in the hostels is consistently under threat with free flow of drugs and alcohol on the campus. Nitish is aware of al this, but has not initiated any action though he is not tired of claiming that education is the primary index for human resources development. (IPA)

Saturday, 21 October, 2017