THIS is the first part of the article after I carefully studied the draft copy of the Central Universities Bill 2008 received by the Goa government. We need to welcome the MHRD’s decision, thanks to active interest by the PM himself to infuse more capital and resources to fund expansion of university education. But Goa is a special state with special needs and needs to equip itself with a multiplicity of institutions of higher education instead of limiting the choices to a ‘converted’ university.
Although the central government is clear and sincere in its’ approach to boost higher educational infrastructure in the country, the Government of Goa appears to be absolutely amateurish and consistently confused.
On one hand, it is craving for a ‘special status’ despite being granted statehood way back in 1987. It has been pursuing the demand to scrap the special economic zones (SEZs) and has been on a collision course with Marmagoa Port Trust (MPT) over the unjustified extended jurisdiction. It has argued unsuccessfully with the finance commissions to get exemption from Gadgil-Mukherjee formula. On the other hand without a second thought it has almost sacrificed the Goa University Act 1984, which established a state university the only university in Goa, under legislative supervision for specific purpose of all round development of the state as stated in objects of the 1984 Act.
As a concerned educationist well versed in the history of the genesis of Goa university, I have made it abundantly clear in this column earlier that the objects enshrined in clause 4 of the Goa University Act are non negotiable and have further legislative scope for comprehensive enlargement to transform Goa University as an engine to accelerate the state’s human resources development, educational development, economic, social sector and industrial development consistent with the demands of a changing Goan society. But precisely this is not the purpose of the new bill.
A careful study of the final draft of the Central Universities Bill, (CUB) 2008 (Bill No 64, 2008) to be introduced in Lok Sabha clearly showed how the decision making process was allegedly high jacked when the political situation was in a state of flux in 2007 and the Chief minister who was then holding the education portfolio was preoccupied with the stability of his government. My personal impression after talking to the CM was that he was thoroughly misguided in believing that 12 states which got new central universities had something special which the advanced state of Goa with higher development indicators and literacy levels lacked. Far more grants are earmarked from Rs 3480 crore to be spent between 2008-09 to 2011-12 for new central universities as compared to the four universities seeking ‘conversion’. The case of Goa for getting brand new central and world-class universities is much better and stronger as compared to other states.
If unregulated and proliferating private correspondence colleges and official open universities like IGNOU can attract thousands of students in Goa for all types of courses then who can say that there are no students for post graduation? The lollipop of providing 80 per cent reservation to local students by amending the CUB would dilute its’ national character and the objects spelt out in clause 5. The mystery behind the abrupt decision permitting the MHRD to ‘convert’ Goa university into a ‘central university’ would be unfolded when the original correspondence on this matter is perused by the concerned people by invoking their rights under the RTI Act. The government appears to have misled the assembly during the monsoon session by not disclosing the fact that it had already given the consent to ‘convert’, Goa University into a ‘central university’ and the MHRD was finalising the draft bill. The state government never disclosed the contents of the draft bill and the level of cooperation it had given to the MHRD between June 2007 to October 2008. All the subsequent public announcements are eyewash.
The assembly session concluded at the end of August 2008 and the central universities bill was ready on October 8, 2008. The copy, which I received, bears October 22 as the printing date. Apparently the Goa government was following a mysterious two-track approach – one in the corridors of MHRD in New Delhi by helping it to shape the bill and another at local level to engage people in belated farcical ‘debates’ so that it could later seek a degree of legitimacy for the decision taken in haste. The game plan was simple – keep the intellectuals busy in debates, throw them off the track and quietly, smartly get the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha. Then the government would have told the people that it was too late to do anything. Unlike 12 other states, Goa is definitely not in a mad rush to join the bandwagon to get a new central university.
Goa is competent and has competent intellectuals here and abroad who could have taken time to shape the approach paper for establishing brand new universities. Why should we accept blindly anything offered by the central government without having our own objective studies? Repealing a state bill which fructified 22 years after liberation and 10 years after the first draft and which had ended the debate on state or central status is a momentous, historic decision for which the state government gave its’ consent without any detail study based on real quantifiable facts and figures, or a cabinet note or a discussion in the assembly sessions between July 2007 to August 2008. This is a very serious matter. It is a definite sign that the decision making process in such sensitive policy matters was hijacked by vested interests. The Goa cabinet and the legislative assembly should have been taken into confidence because assets and liabilities worth billions of rupees are involved in a process which is irreversible.
The CUB leaves no scope for imagination – Goa has everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain. The CUB also makes a mockery of Goa cabinet and the legislative assembly, which knows nothing about these developments. A separate central university would have shown us how the MHRD handles the project and it would have given brand new infrastructure with higher funds. Now if CUB goes through the parliament then, during and after the transitional period everything would be blamed on the state administration.
The Goa government needs to act fast and decisively before the CUB is introduced in the Lok Sabha. All references to Goa University need to be deleted from the CUB. Otherwise it would be too late because the consequences of repealing the Goa University Act 1984 have not been understood by those who have acted in tremendous haste against the interests of Goa and its’ future. (to be continued)