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A Question of Status

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 Sep 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Over the years, a few institutions of excellence and a few State universities in India have deserved the honour of being elevated to Central universities or deemed Central universities. Noteworthy among them are the Allahabad University, the Dr Harisingh Gour University in Madhya Pradesh and the Hemwati ndan Bahugu Garhwal University of Uttarakhand. We also have the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bengaluru and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, both set up by the Tatas in the early 20th century, that were taken over by the Human Resource Development Ministry and the Department of Atomic Energy respectively. Both the institutions are now deemed universities run by the Central Government. There are also other instances of the Union government taking over private institutions other than universities that have attained eminence due to their excellence but were suffering from fincial difficulties. However, none of these institutions were converted to Central universities. There is no precedent whatsoever of a private university being upgraded to a Central university.

It is unfortute that Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Human Resource Development should have promised to consider granting Central university status to a private university that most people had not even heard of. In Chitrakoot of Uttar Pradesh, there is a private university known as the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University run exclusively for the physically challenged by a blind spiritual guru. There is bound to be a general consensus that the me of the university should have been Jagadguru Rambhadracharya University for the Handicapped. The me of the university as it is now would suggest that the university itself was in some ways handicapped rather than being an institution for the handicapped run by a handicapped person. Be that as it may, what is interesting is that the Human Resource Development Minister should have promised to consider giving Central university status to a private university—something that had never been done before—despite an embargo on such upgrades for State universities. More than a year ago, the Ministry had taken a policy decision not to upgrade any State university to a Central university. This was when Smrity Irani was the Human Resource Development Minister. The Ministry had issued a note on May 1, 2015 stating that the decision had been taken for “reasons of legacy issues, adjustment of existing staff and disaffiliation of affiliated colleges.” That decision put paid to the proposals of some universities seeking to be upgraded to Central universities. Among them are Jadavpur University of Kolkata and the Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University of Maharashtra.

The general inference is that Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar must have made a promise to consider an upgrade for a private university because he received an honorary D.Litt. from that university. In fact, he made the promise the day he received the honorary doctorate degree. The general opinion is that private universities should not be upgraded to Central universities under any circumstances. If an unfortute precedent is created, there will be no end to the creation of Central universities through the upgrading of virtually any private university. The majority of Indians have never heard of the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University. If such a private university can nurse ambitions of becoming a Central university my merely honouring the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, think of the mushroom growth of the upgrading of private universities to Central universities that will have to be conceded in India. Think also of the same principle being applied to ministers with other portfolios. All kinds of status to institutions will be linked to honours that are done to the ministers concerned. The last shred of the importance given to merit will be totally eroded. It is for this reason that it is imperative for ministers to refuse accept any honorary degrees from universities as long as they are ministers. This stipulation should take care of all heads of institutions who imagine that they can upgrade the status of a their institutions merely by honouring the minister concerned. What the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University has sought to achieve is despicable and deserves to be condemned by all including the minister concerned.

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