What's in a name? A lot if it's Cotton

BILL PASSED, STUDENTS PROTEST

By SUMIR KARMAKAR in Guwahati
  • Published 9.03.17
  •  

Guwahati, March 8: The name of historic Cotton College will soon cease to exist with the Assam Assembly today passing a bill to upgrade the 116-year-old institution to a university.

This triggered protests with the student union of the college deciding to boycott classes tomorrow and sitting on a 10-hour hunger strike.

The Cotton University Bill, 2017, was passed by the Assembly with no amendments, paving the way for upgrading Cotton college to a university like St Xavier's and Presidency colleges in Calcutta.

"This is a historic bill as it will remove the administrative and academic difficulties between Cotton College and Cotton College State University. When the Cotton College State University Act was passed in 2011, it was decided that the Cotton College property would be in the custody of the university. But later the decision was reversed. This created conflicts between the two institutions and the purpose of transforming the institutions into a centre of excellence was defeated," education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

"We want to transform Cotton College into a centre of excellence of higher education and one of the best universities in the country. The government is ready to invest up to Rs 500 crore to ensure that funds are not a constraint to achieve our goal," Sarma, a Cotton College alumnus, told the Assembly.

The erstwhile Congress government had enacted the 2011 legislation to set up Cotton College State University and upgrade Cotton College. But soon after the university was set up with Cotton College as its constituent college, a conflict of interest arose.

The differences reached such a point that the then Tarun Gogoi-led government tabled an amendment in the Assembly in 2015, paving the way for Cotton College and the university to function as separate entities.

Sarma had set up a committee last year to recommend ways to solve the differences. Sources said the decision to merge the two institutions was based on the panel's report.

On the role of the present principal of Cotton College, Sarma said she could either take a transfer to an eminent college or be given an academic or administration post, keeping her status in mind.

Cotton College Union Society general secretary Jintu Thakuria said they would launch a protest from tomorrow as the education minister had not taken the students into confidence before taking the decision.

The Assembly also passed the Krishnaguru Adhyatmik Viswavidyalaya Bill, 2017, giving a go ahead to the Krishnaguru Foundation to set up a private spiritual university at Nasatra in Barpeta district. The foundation was set up by spiritual guru Arun Goswami, who died recently. The House also passed the Assam State Higher Education Bill, 2017, for establishing a state higher education council to regulate, supervise and develop higher education in the state.