The government is examining a proposal from three Sanskrit deemed universities to convert them to central universities so that they can grant affiliation to colleges and attract more foreign students.
The human resource development ministry has initiated the move to look into the proposals from the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and the Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, both based in Delhi, and the Tirupati-based Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha.
A scholar, who received the President’s Award in 1998 for his works in Sanskrit, said the pre-election-year suggestion appeared to be aimed at helping the BJP.
“The proposal for conversion to central universities seems to have been brought in keeping in mind the general election,” Professor Kala Nath Shastry said.
The three institutes, funded by the central government through the University Grants Commission, have been functioning as deemed universities. N. Goaplaswami, chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha (RSV), said conversion to central universities would improve perceptions regarding their status.
“Now these are deemed universities. They are not perceived to be the same as usual universities. Many students from East Asian countries are interested in studying Sanskrit in India. But when they see deemed university in the name, they are reluctant,” Gopalswami said.
Deemed universities are institutes created through executive orders, unlike universities that have to be set up through acts of state Assemblies or Parliament. The Supreme Court has asked deemed universities not to write the word “university” but allowed them to mention the term “A Deemed University” in parenthesis, if they want to, after their names.
Gopalaswami said deemed universities don’t have the power to grant affiliation to colleges or authorise Sanskrit pathshalas to offer certificate courses. “Once they become central universities, they will be able to affiliate colleges and spread Sanskrit education. We have submitted the proposal. We hope the government brings the bill for conversion to central universities,” he said.
The top court has also ruled that deemed universities need to take approval from the regulatory body concerned if they want to start courses in technical areas like management or pharmacy.
Central universities, a functionary from the Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha (SLBSRSV) said, don’t need to take such approval. “The SLBSRSV currently offers traditional subjects like the Vedas, sahitya, naya and dharma. We can explore courses in new areas that have better job potential,” he added.
A teacher at the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (RSkS) said the Delhi-based institute operated ten off-campuses across the country and had about a hundred affiliated pathshalas, though UGC rules don’t allow such affiliation.
“The pathshalas can become affiliated colleges of the RSkS (if it is converted to a central university),” the teacher said. “The Sansthan will continue to conduct examinations and award certificates to students.”
Professor Shastry, the Sanskrit scholar, said the government had not done anything for these universities or for Sanskrit in the last four years. “There are not enough jobs for students graduating with Sanskrit.”
He said the UPA government had set up the second Sanskrit commission to suggest measures for promoting the language but the NDA has not taken any step to implement the panel’s recommendations.
Shastry, who was a member of the panel, also said no scholar had received the President’s Award for Sanskrit in 2017.