Montek Singh Ahluwalia
New Delhi, Sept. 2: The Planning Commission has asked a central ministry to justify its proposal to set up a women’s university in Rae Bareli, the constituency of Sonia Gandhi.
The human resource development ministry had sought the commission’s “in-principle approval” for four proposed institutions in the 12th Plan period (2012-17). The commission wrote to the ministry last month asking for justification for the proposals.
Planning Commission sources said the thrust of the 12th Plan would be on consolidating the higher education system.
“If any expansion has to take place, it may be done by scaling (up) the capacity of existing institutions. Such an approach will help retain quality and lead to expansion of the system at less cost,” the commission said in its July 18 communication issued with deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s approval.
The other proposals were to set up a central university in Amravati in Maharashtra, an Indian Institute of Technology and an engineering education institution in Kerala.
“The Planning Commission is of the view that a new central university or any central institution may be set up in exceptional circumstances subject to availability of funds. The HRD ministry has been asked to develop criteria to define exceptional circumstances and justify why these four proposals should be considered exceptional circumstances,” the source said.
The ministry will now resubmit proposals for new institutions fully justifying the “exceptional circumstances” to set them up. This is likely to be done after the resource position for the 12th Plan is clear next month.
In June, higher education secretary Ashok Thakur had written a letter to Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Javed Usmani saying the Centre was planning to set up a women’s varsity in Rae Bareli, once represented by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The letter said the Uttar Pradesh government might provide 500 acres for the project.
Traditionally a Nehru-Gandhi family constituency, Rae Bareli has been granted quite a few special packages by the Centre. The health ministry has decided to set up an All India Institute of Medical Sciences there. The railway ministry is in the process of setting up a coach factory.
The demand for a central university in Rae Bareli is not new. In 2008, the HRD ministry had received a proposal to upgrade Feroze Gandhi College in the constituency to a central university. But it did not fructify.
When Pratibha Patil was President, she had sent a proposal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to upgrade Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University to a central university. But the HRD ministry decided to set up a new central university instead of upgrading it.
Kerala has long been pushing for an IIT. The Prime Minister has assured the state that its demand will be considered. A proposal to set up an IIT in Palakkad has been drawn up. There is a proposal to set up another centrally funded technical institution in the state.