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Nalanda: A varsity left to choke

Political intervention has put paid to the idea that set up this university in Bihar.

Amartya Sen, the Nobel Economics laureate and former Chancellor of Nalanda University, wrote in a letter sent to the governing body of the Nalanda University on February 19, 2015, that “I am also sad, at a more general level, that academic governance in India remains so deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling government, when it chooses to make political use of the special provisions.”

Amartya Sen had excluded himself from continuing as the NU Chancellor after his first term. Since its formation, Nalanda University has been in the news for nepotism, irregularities and lack of transparency. Earlier, the appointment of Gopa Sabharwal as the Vice-Chancellor invited scam and related issues. The appointment was questioned in the Rajya Sabha questioning her qualification and experience to be in a higher position in the university. Sabharwal was a reader in the Department of Sociology in Lady Sri Ram College and had nothing to do with Buddhism, which is the basic concept behind forming NU. To add to it, the appointment of Anjana Sharma, a close friend of Sabharwal, as Officer-on-Special Duty on deputation showed the ease with each rules were being perverted. The salaries of both were also topic for discussion as it was higher than the salary of a VC in any university in the country.

Sabharwal’s term in the university ends on November 25 and she was asked to extend her term for another year. But, the day after the NU asked her to continue as interim VC, the President has cancelled it and dissolved the Nalanda Mentor’s Group to form a new governing board.

The new governing board was to be headed by NU Chancellor George Yeo with vice-chancellors and representatives from India, China, Laos, Thailand and Australia. Former bureaucrat N. K. Singh has been nominated as the Indian representative to the Board.

But soon after the formation of the new governing board, Yeo resigned from his position on Friday, stating that the varsity’s autonomy was being affected as he was “not even given notice” of the change in the governing board that was announced on Monday.

“The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the university’s development,” Yeo said in a statement to members of the earlier board of the university.

Other than the Government of India’s expenditure of Rs 2,727 crore over 12 years here, NU gets international support from Japan and Singapore for construction of facilities.

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