New Delhi: The Nalanda University drew stern criticism from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs in recently released Demand for Grants of the ministry for the FY 2012-13. The Standing Committee report devotes eight pages to Nalanda University out of total 83 on the ministry whose footsteps literally span the world. This is in sharp contrast to the last financial year’s demand for grants (2011-12) report where the University project had got a mild patting on its back. In this year’s report, however, the MEA has been grilled like a suspected offender.
What astounded the Standing Committee was the demand of Rs. 598.95 crores made by the MEA on account of the Nalanda University for the current financial year. In last fiscal it had been allocated Rs. 10 crores against a demand of Rs.100 crores. The University could actually utilize Rs.7.16 crores as of March 25, 2012. The Committee asked the Ministry to account for this ‘grossly inappropriate allocation since Rs. 2009-10, which is not in consonance with the ground reality’. The Ministry informed that the inflated demand was to meet the expenditure of Rs. 3,553.70 crores spread over ten years as projected by Educational Consultants India Pvt. Ltd (EdCIL) in their draft detailed project report for setting up the University. The allocation projected amount was likely to spill into 13th five year plan.
The Ministry, however, got caught on a wrong foot in trying to lend a spin to its demand. It claimed that the University is by charter an international institution, which should reflect the best standards and practices of similar institutions globally. The Bihar Times have consistently maintained that Nalanda University has no international legal mandate, and as such it is a Central University. Ministry’s internationalist claims quickly got exposed, when the Standing Committee asked why government of India should foot the entire bill, if other governments were involved in the project.
The Ministry admitted, ‘total contributions, pledges and offers by foreign governments and institutions are to the tune of USD 10 million, though actual contribution materialized so far is USD 1.1, thus leaving a huge shortfall, which the Government of India will have to meet.’
This acknowledgment aptly punctured the tall claims of international support for the University. In reality, there was none. The government of India did no homework or survey to ascertain whether any such demand existed at home or abroad. It was actually trying to develop a new product without conducting a market survey. Nor has it reached any credible agreement with any other government.
The Standing Committee was further displeased at the fact that the main office of the Nalanda University was located in New Delhi. The Ministry, in its reply, stated that it was a Spartan office, whose rent is borne by the government of Bihar. The Nalanda Mentor Group (now Governing Board) had decided that the School of International Studies of the University would function from New Delhi.
The Ministry then said that the office space at Rajgir is in bad conditions. There was no sewerage or water facility. The telecommunication facilities are erratic and road from Patna to Rajgir is congested. It takes more than five hours to cover the 90-km distance between Patna and Rajgir.
The Indian realities seem to have caught up with the Nalanda University project, formulated inside conference rooms of plush hotels in Tokyo, New York and Singapore by Oxbridge brigade.
The Standing Committee made its displeasure clear in three recommendations. First, it censured the Ministry for tardy progress in the University project. It did not agree with the fantastic projections DPR of EdCil, thereby cutting the amount allocated to Rs. 15 crores only for the current financial year. Secondly, the Standing Committee did not agree to idea of having of project office and school of international studies in New Delhi. That would defeat the very idea of setting up a university at an ancient place of knowledge. It said that the proper place for such a school would be the university campus at Rajgir. Lastly, the Standing Committee disagreed with the course content and academic structure of the University. The Committee felt that the University should be established for promotion of studies and research in oriental cultures, literary traditions and languages of civilization based on the native knowledge systems and it would be a living repository of cultural and literary traditions of the region. The University, the Committee felt, should strengthen and build upon the cultural capital and carry forward the thread of identity and consciousness without South-East Asian countries.
Ironically, the task for formulating the vision for Nalanda University was entrusted to the Oxbridge brigade with little understanding of native knowledge. In early 1950s, when Bihar government set up Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, it was led by Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap, a son of the soil. It was a wholly indigenous effort based on Indian knowledge system. The Nalanda-based institution became an internationally reputed institute with scholars from several countries pursuing courses up to doctoral level. But in 2007, the MEA brought some paratroopers for Nalanda University. No wonder, it landed flat on No-man's land. Aftter this indictment by Standing Committee, Bihar Times campaign stands endorsed by legislators.
MEA Demand for Grants 2012-13
CHAPTER-VI A (Page 70-78)