Nalanda International University: Brawl over VC

I have been writing about NIU for a long time. My only wish was that Bihar would get an international university grand and academically excellent enough to attract the best brains of the world both as teachers and students as the ancient Nalanda did.

I expected NIU to have schools of many contemporary subjects along with some dealing with the ancient philosophy, culture and religion. I never expected that the university will focus and specialize on the Buddhist studies that even other institutes existing in India can do. The ancient Nalanda was also the seat of studies of various branches of humanity, science and mathematics.

The news of the controversy raising question about the qualification and suitability of the Vice=Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal and her associates was just shocking and disturbing. It may delay the project and tarnish its image. As I could understand, Ram Chandra Guha and Bhanu Pratap Mehta didn’t join the university simply because it would have demanded a hard long hours of work and that too in a remote place such as Nalanda that may not have all the basic infrastructures for them to keep in touch with the type of lifestyle they are used to. I get reminded of Sir JC Ghosh, the first director of IIT, Kharagpur and the sacrifice he would have done to station himself in Kharagpur, far away from Calcutta.

I was amazed to know about the salary drawn by the new Vice Chancellor and even her associate. I am sure that the remuneration fixed for the Vice Chancellor by the Nalanda Mentor Group could not have been deterrent to attract the best available candidate. As reported, Dr Gopa Sabharwal draws a salary of Rs 5,06,513 per month as Vice chancellor and Dr Anjana Sharma, an Associate Professor in Delhi University, who has been picked up as the Officer-on-Special Duty (OSD) draws Rs 3.30 lakhs.

A blogger questions, “How come Dr Gopa Sabharwal, a Reader of Sociology in the Lady Shri Ram College (Delhi University), who heads a department of three teachers, and has two published books to her credit got catapulted to the position of Vice Chancellor is a secret best known to the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) or its head viz. Amartya Sen.” A website of Bihar has also raised the issue.

I could not understand why the Nalanda Mentor Group did not explore the possibility of finding the right candidate from participating Asian countries or from the institutions abroad, if it failed to get one in the country, and also why Nitish Kumar and his man in the Mentor group couldn’t notice the drawback in the selection of the present Vice Chancellor if it was not right as now claimed by some today. It hurts me and so must it many who wanted to see a great institution taking shape to commemorate the past glory of Nalanda and Bihar. Instead, media smell a scam right at start. The refusal of Kalam who was one of the initiator of the idea of establishment of the NIU, to be associated any more with the university makes one like me suspicious.

I myself don’t know about the Vice chancellor much beyond what is available in public domain. She was a head of the sociology department of a college in Delhi. Has the controversy been born of personal envy of some individuals with vested interest or is it a real serious issue requiring consideration and solution? As reported, ‘the governing council of the Nalanda International University has given a “free hand” to vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal in making the institution operational by next year’.

I wish Amartya Sen, the head of the Mentor Group, clarifies on the controversies. It is again unfortunate that he is associated with many projects of importance including one of Presidency University, Kolkata.

But I appeal to the intellectuals living in Patna and New Delhi or anywhere in the world to take interest in NIU and facilitate in getting the dream project take shape with positive contributions.

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