Minister's rare gesture to varsity
Basant Kumar Mohanty
New Delhi, : Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar
today promised to consider central university status for a private
university, something never done before, amid an embargo on such
upgrades for state universities.
Javadekar gave the assurance to the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya
Handicapped University on a day he received an honorary DLitt from the
institution. The varsity is run exclusively for the physically
challenged by a blind spiritual guru at Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh.

"He (Javadekar) assured that ministry of HRD will consider the
proposal of Jagatguru (sic) Rambhadracharya Handicapped University to
make it a central university to further improve education for
specially abled students," said a statement from the Press Information
Bureau, the Union government's publicity wing.

Over a year ago, the ministry - then under Smriti Irani - had taken a
policy decision not to upgrade any state university to a central
university. It had issued a note on May 1, 2015, saying the decision
had been taken for "reasons of legacy issues, adjustment of existing
staff and disaffiliation of affiliated colleges".

That decision apparently put paid to proposals seeking the upgrade for
several universities, including Jadavpur University in Calcutta and
the Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University in Maharashtra.

Javadekar told the university that a team of officials would visit the
campus for an inspection, sources said. The university, an initiative
by spiritual leader Rambhadracharya, its chancellor, was established
by an act of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in 2001.

Conversion into a central university would mean a government takeover
of the institution.

Jurist and educationist N.R. Madhava Menon said no private university
had till now been upgraded to a central university.

Among the few state universities granted the status are Allahabad
University, Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya in Chhattisgarh, Dr
Harisingh Gour University in Madhya Pradesh and the Hemwati Nandan
Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand.

There are instances of the Centre taking over private institutions
other than universities, but only if they were known for their
excellence and were suffering from financial difficulties. They were
not converted to central universities.

For example, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the Tata
Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, both set up by the Tatas in
the early 20th century, were later taken over by the human resource
development ministry and the department of atomic energy,
respectively. These institutions are now central government-run deemed

Menon defended the upgrade of private universities to central
universities in principle. "There's nothing wrong in it if the
proposal has come from the university," he said. "If the private
university is unable to improve its quality, why can the Centre not
take it over to ensure the students do not suffer?"

Javadekar lauded Rambhadracharya, awarded a Padma Vibhushan last year,
for his contribution to the education of specially abled children.

"This university has set exemplary ideal (sic) where around 5,000
specially abled students have been educated, successfully employed and
empowered," the PIB statement said.

No response had been received till tonight to an email sent to
ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel, asking whether the ministry had
gone back on its policy decision on upgrading universities.


Avinash Shahi
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU

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