| Kapil Sibal |
Aug. 12: The Centre has rejected Bihar’s demand for a central university in Motihari on the ground that faculty members are not ready to teach at such locations and thrown a challenge at the state government, saying it would be set up only at Patna.
Union human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal said in Parliament today that the university would be situated in Patna and the Centre will not give in to chief minister Nitish Kumar’s insistence on Motihari as the only location. About 1,000 acres of land has been “voluntarily” given by farmers of that area, according to the Bihar government.
“In our experience, central universities are established where there is connectivity because in the absence of connectivity, the faculty is not ready to go there nor are there facilities that the faculty should get,” Sibal said in Rajya Sabha while answering a supplementary question from Janata Dal (United) MP Shivanand Tiwari.
Tiwari said in half-jest that the government appeared to have some “allergy” to Mahatma Gandhi in whose name Bihar wanted the university as the Mahatma started his movement in India from Champaran near Motihari.
“I discussed with the chief minister and urged him to suggest a couple of other locations but he said it (the university) will be in Motihari or nowhere else,” Sibal said. “We will try to have the university only in Patna and if the Bihar government cannot acquire land, we (Centre) will acquire it,” he added.
Sibal’s statement triggered howls of protest from the Opposition benches. The BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy wondered how the Centre could, in a federal structure, decide where the university would be set up. Tiwari later told The Telegraph that Sibal was behaving “like a king”. The JD(U) leader pointed out that the UPA government had granted a central university at the native village of Congress ally and former Tamil Nadu chief minister, M. Karunanidhi.
Tiwari rebutted the HRD minister’s contention about connectivity. The Bihar MP said a four-lane highway was being constructed not only from Patna to Muzaffarpur, but also till Motihari. “It will take no longer than three hours to reach Motihari from Patna,” he argued.
Bihar HRD minister P.K. Shahi said the government would not succumb to Sibal’s pressure. “Ours is a democracy and our government is an elected one. The Union HRD ministry’s decision is not binding on us,” he told The Telegraph. “It is a strange situation for all state governments if the Centre starts deciding where a university is to be set up.”
It is not for the first time that the Centre and the state government have faced off on the issue. During the foundation-lying ceremony of the Indian Institute of Technology at Bihta near Patna on April 19, Nitish had argued for setting up the central university in Motihari. The chief minister had argued that not only would it be a tribute to the Mahatma, it would also augur well for inclusive growth of an underdeveloped state. However, Sibal had not shared Nitish's enthusiasm for Motihari as the location.
On August 10, The Telegraph had reported that the Union HRD ministry was looking to set up the varsity either in Patna or at Gaya.
During the lunch recess today, Tiwari and Sibal met at the Central Hall of Parliament where the HRD minister tried convincing the JD(U) MP.
“If there is a central university, it will only be at Motihari,” Tiwari later said. He added that the Centre’s demand for land was unacceptable because Bihar’s population density was over 1,000 people per sqkm and land acquisition near Patna was tough. Tiwari said the matter would be raised again in the House.