Human resource development minister Baidyanath Ram on Sunday said the government would not allow any private party to take over the campus of Suraj Singh Memorial College, a day after students protested the alleged sale of the land to a property developer, even as the buyer claimed that he had published six advertisements notifying the sale in the last one year.
Ram said he had asked Ranchi University vice chancellor L.N. Bhagat to submit all details about the 40-year-old constituent college on Monday. “I have asked the vice chancellor to come prepared with all documents. Let it be very clear that the government will not allow the land to be taken over,” Ram told The Telegraph over phone.
On Saturday, hundreds of students disrupted traffic for over three hours after a vernacular daily reported that the 73 decimals that the college stood on had been sold by Suraj Singh’s family on September 18 for Rs 4 crore.
The minister, meanwhile, expressed his displeasure with the manner in which Ranchi University had handled the affairs of the college over the years. Though the college boasts of 8,000 students on its rolls, there are barely five classrooms in intact condition. It is devoid of functional toilets and offers just one cramped staff room, that too minus any seating arrangements, for over 50 teachers.
Ram claimed that his department had offered the college as well as the university all the required support, especially funds for development of the campus and mandatory infrastructure, but to no avail.
Asked why his department had not initiated action against the university in that case, Ram said: “We can’t directly interfere in the university’s functioning as it’s an autonomous body. We can assist with funds and facilitate it.”
He said according to rules, the so-called owners of the land should have given the college notice and applied for the land title before selling it.
“Even if it is sold, the government has all the right to retain the land in public interest. In this case, it’s the fate of thousands of students at stake,” the minister said.
Vice chancellor L.N. Bhagat said the university would challenge the alleged sale of land in court. Meanwhile, businessman Kamal Singhania, who purchased the land, said the deal was struck with Silli-based Raja Virendra Nath Singh Deo’s family, who are related to Suraj Singh, the man who donated the land and after whom it is named.
“They needed the money and were hunting for buyers for a long time. They possessed all the legal papers and it was never mentioned that the land was donated. I don’t know the details about how they got the land from Suraj Singh, but the parties were related I believe,” Singhania said. He, however, did not answer directly when asked why he went ahead with the sale when he was aware that a college stood on the plot.
He added that before buying and registering the land, public advertisements were published half a dozen times in all vernacular dailies after June 4, 2011, asking anyone who objected to the sale to come forward. No one did.
“So finally we made the payment and bought the land. The registration was completed in September,” he said. Asked what he intended to do now that the government had adopted a tough stand and the university was set to move court, Singhania said he was open to talks.