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Bill new era for education

- Doors open for private universities

Patna, April 2: The Assembly today passed a bill that opens the doors to private universities in a state from where lakhs of students move out every year in search of quality higher education.

The Assembly passed the Private Universities Bill 2013 through a voice vote, prompting the government to describe the legislation as historic and the launch of a new era for Bihar.

The House also passed five other bills — one of them ensuring 50 per cent reservation for women in cooperative bodies in consonance with chief minister Nitish Kumar’s announcement on Bihar Divas on March 22.

The House rejected several amendments and jettisoned vociferous criticism from the RJD to pass the legislation on private universities, which the Opposition dismissed as a “black law”.

“It aims at enriching the state in the higher education infrastructure, the inadequacy of which has compelled lakhs of Bihar students to migrate to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Maharashtra and several other states,” education minister P.K. Shahi said.

Among the salient features of the bill are adhering to the state’s reservation policy in the enrolment of students, paying scholarship and ensuring free education to at least five per cent of students hailing from the weaker sections, charging no capitation fees and furnishing details of adequate infrastructure set-up, including land.

“Adequate checks and balances are there to discourage private operators from indulging in profiteering and exploiting the students,” Shahi said. “The bill has also made it clear that the government will neither acquire land for them nor will it part with public land for them.”

Moving his amendment, leader of Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui said: “The government has failed to improve the fast deteriorating condition of its universities and colleges. The Patna Science College, Patna Medical College and Hospital and Patna College, which once were rated as centres of excellence, have lost their lustre because of inadequacy of the teachers and funds. The government should set its own house in order rather than inviting private corporates whose sole motive is profiteering.”

Experts, however, were sceptical that the bill will immediately open the door to private players in education. “Given the intricate regulations and controls in the bill, the private players will find it hard to set up shop in the state,” said a senior professor of economics. “It is hard to make even a minimal profit if one opens the university in accordance with the regulations enshrined in the Bihar bill.”

The Bihar State Universities (Amendment) Bill 2013 and Patna University (Amendment) Bill 2013 too were moved by Shahi and passed by the House, stipulating appointment of assistant professors in colleges through the Bihar Public Service Commission.

The state cabinet on Tuesday gave its nod to the amendments in the Chief Minister’s Area Development Scheme, highly placed sources said.