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Nalanda University:
How Amartya advanced his favourite candidate as the V-C


By a Special Correspondent

New Delhi, (BiharTimes) The Bihar Times is in possession of two documents that reveal how Amartya Sen, Chairman, Nalanda Mentor Group, advanced his favourite candidate Dr. Gopa Sabharwal for the post of Rector (Vice Chancellor) in Nalanda University without being authorized to search for or select any. The documents also reveal that it was a pick and choose affair without following a proper selection process or conducting interviews.

Prof. Sen, in his letter to the then External Affairs Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee on February 6, 2009 says ‘it has been a difficult choice’ (selecting a Rector). The NMG had to balance academic qualification of the candidates with their ‘willingness to spend time in Patna and the surroundings of the university as it takes shape’. He recommends three names in that order - 1. Dr. Gopa Sabharwal (Sociologist, Delhi University and Lady Shri Ram College- sic.) 2. Dr. Ramchandra Guha (Historian, biographer and writer) and 3. Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Political scientist, President, Centre for Policy Studies).

Prof Sen’s letter, written on his Harvard University letterhead, is a single page communication. It carries no detail about the selection process, search committee or annexes any document submitted by the candidates. There is no information about the total number of candidates considered for the said post. Clearly, neither any ‘wide publicity’ was given for this top job nor any rational and transparent procedure followed. Sounder processes are in place in both Cambridge and Patna University even to select a lecturer. There is nothing on record to prove that the mentor group had considered any academician from Bihar for the post. It could have taken care of at least half the difficulty- spending time in Patna and surroundings of the proposed University.

The said letter antedates the enactment of Nalanda University Act, 2010 by more than one and half years. Questions may be asked about such a tearing hurry in choosing the Rector, whom Prof. Sen wanted to be a part of NMG meeting at Gaya later that month.

Evidently, Prof. Sen is not actuated by the vision of the Nalanda University. Academic qualifications and willingness to spend time in Patna are his two considerations. It is not important for him that the Rector should have a background of ‘intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies’ as envisaged in the Act. Nor did he find it necessary to consult those who have spent lifetime in pursuing Nalanda tradition. All the three academicians mentioned are persons connected with modern or contemporary history/sociology. It is unlikely they ever get an opportunity even to spell the word ‘Nalanda University’ in their books, thesis or articles.

But the primary impropriety in this exercise is not its selectiveness but non-authorization. It is clear from the Terms of Reference (vide the certified copy) that searching/selecting a Rector (Vice Chancellor), or for that matter any personnel for the proposed University, was not a business of the Nalanda Mentor Group. Why did then the NMG spend more time in the ‘difficult task’ of selecting candidates rather than doing what was assigned to them under the terms of reference?

It smacks of a devious exercise to smuggle in Prof. Sen’s favourite candidate without observing the standard practices in Indian universities. He places Dr. Gopa Sabharwal at no. 1 although she is not a professor as mandatory under UGC rules on Vice Chancellor. Dr. Sabharwal, in turn, chose to function from Delhi curtailing the need to spend time in Patna.

This, however, is not the only case arbitrariness and favoritism in matter of appointment in Nalanda University. It was just the beginning. For Prof. Sen, fair practice need not accompany fair preaching!




White I do not doubt the genius and the integrity of Dr. Sen, the appointment of Dr. Sabharwal as the VC of NIU leaves a lot to be desired. 

The demand of a 'Bihari' VC for NIU is tantamount to Raj Thackerey's slogan of Marathi Manoos. As Mr. Alok has rightly pointed out, it will render NIU to be an 'Akhada' of politics. 

Even though, Nalanda University Act, 2010 requires that the VC should have a background of ‘intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies,’ I do not consider it as a necessity. The demand for the VC to be a scholar in the Buddhist Studies is unwarranted as well. But, the requirement of academic excellence and proven track record of administrating university affairs in various capacities should not be compromised with. 

The salary of Rs 5,06,513 per month from Delhi for a university in Nalanda must be a joke. I do not know what kind of salary Tatas and Ambanis draw from their enterprises, but not more than few dozen people in India will be making that kind of money. To the best of my knowledge, the credentials of Dr. Sabharwal do not warrant such a fat salary.

The onus is now on the Governing Council (or the Mentor Group) to clear the air over the selection process and it is also the responsibility of Dr. Sabharwal to justify her suitability for the post of VC of NIU. The mandatory qualification set by the UGC for the post of Vice Chancellor of the central and state universities requires a distinguished academician with a minimum ten years of experience as a professor in a university. Dr. Sabharwal is hardly known for her academic excellence or proven administrative capability. (I am not arguing that she is unfit for the post, but she has to demonstrate the qualifications to meet the competency requirements.)

Last, but not the least, I appreciate BiharTimes from bringing the issue to fore so that we can discuss it. Otherwise, the issue had been nicely swept under the rug by every other means of communication. This time around, BiharTimes' line of argument is not unfounded - it has copies of original letters, RTI queries, UGC guidelines, and Nalanda University Act, 2010 to back itself.



Let me congratulate BT for it's continuous relentless effort in highlighting how the selection of the very first VC of Nalanda International University was influenced and bypassed the very fundamentals of ethos of transparency and integrity. I am glad that BT is not part of a chorus group who sing praise song of anything which is happening in Bihar nowadays. It is quite understandable that it causes lot of heart burn for many. I feel there are people who still suffer from the mentality that a "talent" is always handpicked by some other talented/ proven person. Should we simply accept that Mrs. Gopa is most talented and suitable person for the post of the VC and stop questioning her competency? What is her credentials & contribution in the field of Buddhist studies for which the University is being set up? Is she such a big personality in academic circle to head and lead this prestigious heritage-centric institution. Will she be able to attract talents from the world over? Instead of institutionalizing a stringent process for selecting and appointing VC, this is setting up a bad precedent - it is really unfortunate. Perhaps for this reason, Dr. APJ Kalam (the visionary behind the idea of revival of Nalanda University) did not approve the appointment of Mrs. Gopa Sabharwal and subsequently refused/declined to accept/ continue as the first Visitor (Chancellor) of this university. it is interesting to note that The President of India, Ms. Pratibha Patil (the Chancellor of this University) has not yet approved the appointment of Dr. Sabharwal, is still pending with her for past many months thus Dr. Gopa is still a VC designate.
Kudos to BT for trying to bring out truths and not being simply awed by big names and not shying away from raising very relevant questions. Your efforts are much lauded. Please keep it up.
- Prabhat Sinha, Noida



I think the issue here is not merely a question of competency , rather most importantly is that of transparency and following the correct selection process . Mr. Alok is trying very hard to malign the BT and make accusations of parochial bias , but would he be able to completely honestly himself answer the most pertinent question that why the selection was handled in such a hush hush tone , when in India even the selection of an Engineer under the Govt of India needs to go through a gazetted advertisement and then follow up with a panel selection process . Does it mean that this so called university is not a Govt. of India initiative ? Then why are such fat salaries being paid by the govt from the Tax Payers money ?

I must laud the effort of BT that despite such stiff resistances it is still holding on and trying to initiate corrections in the system . Instead of trying to pull them down , we as Indian citizens should try and help them before we have another scam blowing up .

It is an International University ------ proposed , fine , but do we know that International University follow a system and process that is transparent , documented and has accountabilities associated with each post , but here we only have favoritism . The VC is friends with PM;s daughter so she gets the post , the OSD is friends with VC so she gets the post, the website address owner is friends of OSD so he gets the website ....... but yes we question the logic and sanity .

Why don;t we question the logic and sanity when the website is semi operational for 2 months and then goes off ? Why don;t we question , "when the spokes person takes pride in giving interviews by mentioning that though we are an International University but our website is still not up ",( maybe there is no time left after making those foreign trips) ? Why don;t we question that , "Is the VC of Delhi University less competent and is only worth less that half the salary of Ms. Sabharwal ?

Since every thing seems to be in order then maybe the Architectural design should also be just handed over , given the established traditions , maybe some friend of someone , somewhere , after all it is nothing but friends club , then why the farce of global competition , when we could not have a global selection process for an International University , where we pay salary according to global benchmarks , but we do everything under the carpet .

Great ........ Jai HO !

Parul Dewan



I'm in full agreement with u. It is a game played by none else but by
'Honest' PM Shri Manmohan singh which needs to be exposed.
Mukesh Kumar


Nalanda University is an international university, so demand of a 'Bihari' VC is at best a parochial one. Talent should be the only criteria.
1) We all love to hate 'reservation', but when it comes to self we start looking the other way. Are we looking at regional reservation here for an international university? Oh...yes why not we'll make it an another Patna College. An 'Akhada' of politics.....
2) I also find this demand something like Raj Thakrey's. What's wrong if he's asking everything in Maharashtra should happen for (and by) Marathis? If Biharis can go and work anywhere in the country/world, so can others.

So far no one has come with any substantial piece of information on why Gopa is not suitable? Whether she's a professor or reader is of little significance. I know some professor of PU, who would not stand the test of lecturer even.

May be I missed that, But can people enlighten me with Gopa's so called 'anti-Bihari' statement? Before terming her incomepetent, do you know about all her work? Better instead are you clear about the competency requirement?

I think lot of people commenting on her and Prof. Sen without adequate knowledge, with one even going to the extent of questioning Prof. Sen's committment to the country. I think any one who have read his book "The Argumentative Indian" would never say this. Besides, all his proceeds from Nobel Prize went to Prachi an NGO working in India.

But then, when intention is to paint someone black, make nasty insunuations and innuendoes, logic and sanity is too much to ask.



Some facts file:Not any permanent staff at Nalanda University, less than 20 days stay of Vice Chancellor in Bihar in 2011, Rs.227.28 lakh expenditure from April 2011 to November 07,2011.

No one knows the academic credentials of Mrs.Gopa.

Prof.Amartay Sen is a writer,scholar but not an administrator. What is the out put of Nalanda University within 2 yrs while 339.28 lakh has been expended from November 2010 to 7th Nov.2011.

BT has published the hidden facts of Nalanda University. People have the right to know about the development of this university .In fact a Bihari should be appointed as Vice Chancellor otherwise the objective of NU will be diluted.

Purander Sawarnya


Even though there could be irregularities with the entire process but the way Bihar Times is covering this episode portrays a malign picture
of prejudiced journalism. Critical journalism does not means that you have to target individuals in programmed manner. This also comes out
many times, while your news coverage about the present government. “Willingness to spend time in Patna and the surroundings of the
university as it takes shape” is a crucial factor that they need to respond, while selecting any candidates. I don’t know, on what ground Bihar Times claim that, there are competent candidates within the state. No institute of higher education is known to people outside the
state. There are virtually no public figure from the state known in academic circles.

If I am wrong, please provide a detail account of the academic output and other responsibilities shared by the esteemed academicians from
within the state. The abysmally poor state of higher education during the last few decades in Bihar demands infusion of talent from other
parts of the country/outside.

Whereas, there can be questions on lack of transparency in the whole process of selection.

Aseem T


Prof Amartya Sen's letter to the then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, not only justifying his stand on the appointment of Gopa Sabharwal as vice-chancellor of the proposed Nalanda University but also hiding her academic qualifications and competences. Prof Amartya Sen , in the capacity of chairman of the Nalanda university mentor group-cum-Nalanda university governing council has started playing all tricks to justify his misdeeds in the appointment of Gopa as V-C as well as opening of the university office in Delhi instead of the at the proposed site of the university in Nalanda in Bihar. Prof Sen has advanced arguements that V-C of the university should be such academic , who could be willing to stay at the university site. Prof Sen had also referred two other names -Prof Ram Chandra Guha and Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta with his recommendations. It is suprising the name of Gopa finds at the top and sadly she had been clubbed with the names of two stalwart academicians like Guha and Mehta.. It is said that ministry of foreign affairs is yet to give clearance on his recommendation and Prof Sen notified the notification of appointing Gopa as vice-chancellor of the university. It is still a million dollar question what compelled Prof Sen to even consider the Name of Gopa as Vi-C when she did not have requisite qualifications! Why not Guha or Mehta were notified when they have all the requisite qualifications and competences?
Apart from that when Prof Sen and his governing council were exposed for misdeeds and knowledge and intellectual brokering in appointing Gopa, a glamorous woman as V-C sidetracking the names of famed academicians in the country as well as other unfairmeans in running the affairs of the proposed university-firstly Sen must be considered devil of the piece for sidetracking the former president of India Dr APJ, who had conceived the idea of the university on the ruins of the ancient Nalanda university from the university and started humiliated him, resulting into APJ's disassociation from the affairs of the university, he abused Biharis and Bihar intellectuals and acedimics-than Sen abused prominent academics of the country than the whole country !Sen started thinking a super academic in the globe and started behaving manglomaniach -that he is not but appears a man and character of lust and other vices, taking into account his past instances of forgetting India,s culture and civilisation being in America even at this ripe old age!
Just after that Sen had expressed his willingness to quit the mentorship chaiman of the university and work as its advisior-that he did not do! Sen had gone away despite his lobbying in the corridor of power in Delhi only after his terms and governng coucil terms expired. Still Sen is peeping into the affairs of the NU!
What ever happenes in the past everybody must forget and the union government must come forward with definite governing council of NU and start the functioning of the university on the ruins of the ancient Nalanda University. In between Srimati Gopa should also quit and pave the way for appointing qualified and competent V-c of the university!
In this endevour, former President APJ must be associated to bring the university in shape! We do not NRI Like Prof Sen to manage our academic affairs.
K K Singh, Journalist, my blog



प्रधानमंत्री मनमोहन सिंह की इच्‍छा से नालंदा विवि की कुलपति बनने के बाद डॉ. गोपा सभरवाल अब इस फिराक में है कि नालंदा विश्‍वविद्यालय नालंदा के बजाए दूसरी जगह खुले। दरअसल पांच लाख रूपया का लोभ भी है और बिहार के प्रति हीन भावना भी। एक तरह डा कालाम दुनिया को बिहार तक लाने के लिए इस संस्‍थान को फिर से बनाने का सुझाव दिया था, तो दूसरी ओर नालंदा के नाम पर दिल्‍ली मे मौज कर रही सभरवाल को लोकेशन पसंद नहीं आ रहा है। उनका कहना है कि नालंदा पढने और पढाने के लिए कौन जाएगा। सवाल है ऐसे बिहार विरोधी को इस पद पर बनाने का क्‍या मतलब है। ज्ञात हो कि सभरवाल मनमोहन सिंह की बेटी की सहेली है और कुलपति बनने की योग्‍यता तक नहीं रखती। खुद को विद्वान कहनेवाले ईमानदार सिंह बिहार को मूर्ख मत समझे। बिहार जान रहा है आप क्‍या खेल खेल रहे हैं।

Mukhiya Jee


I think Bihartimes will do a world of goods to Bihar and Biharis by stopping this canard by some vested interest targetting Prof. Sen again and again. Prof. Sen is a talent any institution on this earth would yearn to have on their roll, and look at what we are doing? I would believe him 1000 times more than these so called harbinger of the 4th estate. They hardly have any talent and depth to take on the laureate and anything new to offer. Just get a letter, weave a story around and serve them on a platter, crying wolf and spreading smokescreen. Gullible as we are, there would be 5-10 hate comments, accusations, finger pointing. Job is done and and mission accomplished. BT got the much needed attention and we the individual accomplished our goal 'social service' by abusing some 'corrupt' person.

Please stop this BT, otherwise you will loose whatever credibility is left. You have come a long way from the highs of being a mouthpiece of Biharis to be a mere blog with personal 'picks' and 'chooses'. Your readers deserve a little more objectivity.

Alok Kumar Singh


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