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Naveen mum on new Ravenshaw campus

(Top) Chief minister Naveen Patnaik at Ravenshaw University and students enjoy a movie at varsity’s
commerce block on Thursday. Pictures by Badrika Nath Das

Cuttack, Nov. 15: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s ambivalence on the issue of Ravenshaw University’s second campus has left the academic fraternity disappointed.

Interacting with reporters on the sidelines of the university’s sixth Foundation Day today, Naveen said: “The state government is committed to converting Ravenshaw University into a world-class varsity and efforts would shortly be made for construction of its second campus.”

However, his words have failed to inspire confidence among students and faculty members, especially since he dithered on his commitment to lay the foundation stone for the new campus at the last minute.

“On Saturday, we received confirmation from the chief minister’s office that he would attend the Foundation Day ceremony after laying the foundation stone for the second campus near Naraj. But all of a sudden, the plan changed and we got a communiqué that he would only be present for the ceremony,” said a senior university official.

Cuttack-Barabati MLA Debasish Samantray, who also attended the ceremony, justified Naveen’s decision. “To give prominence to the foundation day, the programme was changed. The laying of foundation stone would be done in a separate event,” he said.

Ravenshaw authorities said the state government had allotted nearly 126.40 acres at Brajabiharipur near Naraj for the project. An amount of Rs 1.2 crore had been sanctioned for civil works, including construction of a boundary wall.

“The chief minister’s non-committal on the issue of sanctioning funds for the new campus has hurt us. The state government has been welcoming private players to set up universities here. But it has neglected Ravenshaw, a heritage institution,” said a faculty member.

The authorities said they had urged the chief minister to sanction Rs 180 crore to set up the second campus and Rs 64 crore to renovate the existing one.

“The existing campus was built for 150 students, but with over 8,000 students now, it has come under pressure. We need another campus. We want to start eight to nine schools of studies for which adequate set up and faculty are required,” said vice chancellor B.C Tripathy.

Naveen, in his address, did not mention anything about the new campus. He talked about higher education getting a fillip with a number of key educational institutions, including Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), National Institute of Science Education and Research (Niser), Central University and National Law University, being established in the state.

He also announced that an industrial park would shortly be set up in the state and employment would be given to nearly 10 lakh youths in the next five years.

Guests, present at the event, appeared apologetic about the government’s stand on Ravenshaw’s second campus. Higher education minister Badrinarayan Patra said steps would be taken to ensure that the project became a reality.

“There is absolutely no dearth of funds and the state government is committed for development of higher education in Odisha. There are also plans for converting Ravenshaw University into a centre of excellence,” said Patra.