A Reader ‘appointed’ as VC of Nalanda International University

Patna,(BiharTimes): A Reader serving as the Vice Chancellor of an International University! Sounds somewhat grotesque, yet this is the fact.
If the RTI reply of November 22 last year is to be believed Dr Gopa Sabharwal, Reader in the Department of Sociology in the Lady Sri Ram College is the Vice Chancellor of the Nalanda International University, whose idea was conceived by the then President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.

Though she has nothing to do with the Buddhist Studies, on which the University specializes, she as the VC draws a salary of Rs 5,06,513 per month, double than the VC of Delhi University. Not only that she and seven of her associates are drawing salaries since October 2010.

But that is not the strangest part of the story. What is ridiculous is that the Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahamad, told Rajya Sabha on August 25, 2011 that no VC has been appointed by the government.

Interestingly, Dr Gopa did not meet the mandatory qualification set by the University Grants Commission (UGC) for the Vice Chancellors of the central and state universities.

Only a distinguished academicians with a minimum ten years of experience as a professor in a university can be appointed as the VC.

" Its shocking for all of us that how a mentor group headed by Prof. Amartya Sen recommended a candidate for the post of VC of Nalanda International University who is hardly known for his academic excellance or proven administrative capability. Can any senior academician would ever think of joining this university under current VC." said anguished economist Prof. N K Chaudhary.

The RTI reply was provided by none else but the Joint Secretary Nagendra Kumar Saxena of the same ministry. It revealed that on the recommendations of the Nalanda Mentor Group, Dr Gopa Sabharwal was formally appointed Vice Chancellor.

According to a report recently published in Tehelka magazine the government has spent Rs 2.11 crore on meetings held by a Mentor Group constituted under the chairmanship of Professor Amartya Sen in Singapore, Tokyo, New York, Delhi and Gaya to conceptualise establishment of the University.

As per the report the Group was formed in 2007 and was supposed to file a final report within a period of nine months, but it has not done so yet. The Parliament, however, enacted the law for it in 2010 which was notified on September 22, 2010.

But the moot question is how the a Vice Chancellor-designate was appointed even before the Act was notified for its establishment and that too at such a huge salary.

Not only that Gopa Sabharwal was appointed through an order issued by a Secretary in MEA on the recommendation of the Mentor Group.

Now questions are being asked as to who authorised the Mentor Group to recommend the name of the first VC of the university and why the ministry accepted the sole name proposed without seeking a panel of names required for such an appointment.

It is not only that: Dr Sabharwal picked up her friend Dr Anjana Sharma, an Associate Professor in Delhi University, as the Officer-on-Special Duty (OSD) on deputation, with gross monthly salary of Rs 3.30 lakhs, which is more than the salary of a Vice Chancellor in the rest of the country.

They also found nothing wrong in setting up headquarters of the university in a rented building in the R K Puram in South Delhi in January this year even though the Act specifically says the university’s headquarters shall be in Nalanda district in Bihar.

The Standing Committee of the ministry says in its report just tabled in Parliament that the Nalanda project was estimated in 2007 to cost Rs 1,005 crore but this may have to be revised, and that the same Mentor Group has now become the Interim Governing Board of the University. In its very first meeting in February last the Board, according to the report, nominated adviser committee and the two persons representing India in it are Ms Upinder Singh, daughter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and her colleague Ms Nayanjot Lahiri, who are not experts on any aspect of the Nalanda tradition or history.

BiharTimes has repeatedly highlighted how Historian Ramachandra Guha and scholar Prakash Bhanu Mehta refused to accept the offer of Vice Chancellorship of the University.

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Comment by Ranjan kumar jha on September 15, 2011 at 12:17pm
Patna,(BiharTimes): Ten days after BiharTimes did the story for the first time on the appointment of Dr Gopa Sabarwal, a Reader in Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, as the Vice Chancellor of Nalanda International University, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday washed his hands of from the controversy by passing the buck on the Centre.

Responding to the media’s query on the issue the chief minister said “I have nothing to do with this appointment. This is not our issue. The Centre has appointed him. I want that this University start functioning soon. I have not left any stone unturned in this regard. When the Centre made an Act in this regard and we declared our Act null and void. We have even provided land for the Nalanda International University."

It is true that the state has little role to play in the Nalanda International University yet the absence of protest over Dr Sabarwal’s appointment by Janata Dal (United) MP, N K Singh, who is also in the Mentor Group, surprised many in Bihar.

It also remained a mystery as to under which circumstances former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam dissociated himself from the Nalanda International University though he was named as Visitor by the Bihar government only three years back. In fact he and Nitish even visited the site of the NIU in February 2008.

What sounds even more intriguing is the total silence of the local and national media. It took 10 days for the electronic media to carry the news for the first time after it was carried by BiharTimes on September 3 last.

However, the print media chose to black out the news completely. No English newspaper even dared to carry Nitish’s clarification while only a couple of Hindi newspapers did carry it.

The mediapersons sought the chief minister’s opinion for the first time on Monday, that is nine days after BiharTimes first flashed the news. Why the media remained tightlipped on the issue of such importance for Bihar?


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