Finance Minister has good words but no fund for Nalanda University

Though Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and VC, Gopa Sabharwal lauded Chidamabaram’s reference to Nalanda University the fact is that no fund has been allocated for former President, A P J Abdul Kalam’s brainchild.

By a Special Correspondent

(BiharTimes): The paragraph 33 in Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s Union Budget speech (2013-14) on February 28 was an oddity. It read “the reconstruction of the Nalanda University has gathered momentum. The Government is committed to the creation of Nalanda University as a centre for educational excellence.”

But perplexingly there was no corresponding budgetary allocation. Conventionally, mention of any scheme/project in Budget Speech without corresponding budgetary allocation is superfluous. It is not Finance Minister’s job to comment upon any government policy if it were without financial implication.

Minister of External Affairs Salman Khushid’s much publicized announcement that Nalanda University would get special budgetary allocation now rings hollow. He had made a statement to that effect on February 12 at Rajgir on the occasion of the parliamentary consultative committee(MEA) meeting. Chidambaram’s announcement appears to be a smart way of snubbing the Ministry of External Affairs on a scandal-ridden project. Nalanda University’s Finance Minister’s announcement, according to VC, Gopa Sabharwal, has cleared the doubts of the critics even if it were without promise of an outlay.

It appears inter-ministry friction that has prevented Finance Minister from committing any funds to the Nalanda University. The seasoned Finance Minister knows the project is on sticky wicket as far as his ministry is concerned. Any new autonomous body, Central University, Deemed to be University, Institute of National Importance need to be appraised by the Expenditure Finance Committee headed by Secretary (Expenditure), Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of External Affairs never bothered to send the project to Finance Ministry.

The Demand for Grants for the Ministry of External Affairs (2013-14) is pegged at Rs 11,719 crores. Last fiscal year, the Ministry had demanded Rs 598 crores for the Nalanda University but the Standing Committee on External Affairs had trimmed it to mere Rs 15 crores. It was aghast at the mismatch between tall claims of the University and actual performance.

The Finance Minister’s praise of Nalanda University thus appears to be ornamental.

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