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JU changes colour, choice a grey area

The buildings housing Subarna Jayanti Bhavan
Special education cell sport the chief minister’s favourite colour scheme. Pictures by Pradip Sanyal

Several buildings on the Jadavpur University campus have been painted in Mamata Banerjee’s favourite blue-and-white colour scheme, allegedly at vice-chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti’s behest.

The planning committee of the 59-year-old university usually picks the colours and the vice-chancellor, who heads the committee, approves it.

But the process was allegedly reversed this time. “The vice-chancellor selected the colour scheme and told the committee to approve it. We were told the same colour scheme had to be followed in ‘as many buildings as possible’,” a source said.

Many government buildings and public property across the city, mainly guardrails and sidewalks, have already turned blue and white. But JU is possibly the first university in the state to change its colours to match the chief minister’s choice.

Chakrabarti’s alleged role in it has raised eyebrows for more than one reason. The vice-chancellor has been in the news lately for being asked to probe Trinamul student leaders’ alleged role in the cash-for-seats scandal in a BEd college under Kalyani University.

Questions have already been raised about Chakrabarti’s neutrality after he made a very public appearance at the foundation day programme of the Trinamul-affiliated union.

“This (blue and white) is a (colour) combination that the people of Bengal want…. We should use this colour combination to paint our buildings as well,” a source quoted the vice-chancellor as saying at the meeting of the university’s planning committee.

Several buildings on the JU campus have been painted in preparation for an inspection in July by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. The buildings had been last painted in 2006, ahead of an inspection by a team from the council.

Nearly a dozen structures, including the Subarna Jayanti Bhavan, postgraduate engineering science, civil engineering, electrical engineering, biotechnology and central library buildings, have been painted in blue and white.

There are around 70 large and small buildings across the sprawling 61-acre JU campus.

Aurobindo Bhavan, the main administrative building that has been declared a heritage structure, has been spared a splash of Argentina. The building has been repainted in its original colour — light saffron — because the university isn’t authorised to change the colour scheme of a heritage structure.

The vice-chancellor declined to comment when Metro asked him what prompted the university to choose the blue-and-white colour scheme. “I will not speak on the issue,” he said.

JU engineer Tapan Ghatak, a member of the planning committee who also oversees maintenance of the buildings, said: “There hasn’t been any irregularity in choosing the blue-and-white combination.”

According to some, it is not a question of irregularity but propriety. “I don’t think there was a need to follow the government’s favourite colour scheme. Every academic institution has the freedom to pick its own colours while painting its buildings,” said a student of economics.

Another student expressed shock at the change. “We were shocked…. The campus used to look more beautiful before when they were painted in different colours,” said the student of English.

Many teachers and officials said they were “unhappy” about the choice, looking at it as an “infringement” on the university’s autonomy. “Government buildings like the secretariat can be painted according to the chief minister’s choice of colours. But the buildings of an autonomous academic institution like JU cannot be treated as government offices,” said a professor of engineering.