Bihar Government offers 200 acres of Land for Vikramshila Central University

Seven years on, the proposed central university near the ancient seat of learning in Vikramshila (Bhagalpur), announced as part of the Rs 1,25,000-crore special package for Bihar by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2015 assembly elections, awaits land acquisition to get closer to reality.

The Bihar government had offered three sites for the proposed university and the a committee headed by the then Vice-Chancellor of Central University of South Bihar, HCS Rathore, had visited the sites last year and submitted a preliminary report in March 2021 itself regarding one of them. However, there has been no forward movement since then.

Bihar’s education minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary said the government has identified around 200 acres of land and sent a proposal to the Centre. “For central university, the demand was for 500 acres, which is difficult to find. We have sent a proposal of over 200 acres and await Centre’s response. Once the Centre’s nod comes, we will initiate the process for acquisition,” he said.

The matter was also raised in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session by Sushil Kumar Modi, Bihar’s former deputy chief minister, who sought to know when the Centre would take a decision on the committee’s report and convey the same to the State Government.

In a written reply, the Centre said that the action in such matters are taken as per established procedure of the government. Once land is made available, the Centre will take up infrastructure development for starting academic activities.

“The PM package for Bihar, 2015, provides for establishment of a new central university near Bhagalpur at the historic site of Vikramshila University. The government of Bihar has offered the site for the proposed university and a preliminary report has been submitted,” said Union minister of state for education Dr Subhas Sarkar had said.

Rathore had earlier said that he had given a positive interim report to the Centre pertaining to suitability of land shown to the committee. “The 282-acre plot identified by the Bihar government should be sufficient to start with, but land acquisition has to be completed. It is four kilometres from the ancient site. The decision has to be taken by the Centre,” he said.

Bhagalpur district magistrate Subrat Kumar Sen said that three plots close to the ancient site of Vikramshila had been shown to the committee, which visited the place. “Once we get any communication from the Bihar government and the required funds, the acquisition process will be started,” he said.

Bihar’s glorious history in the sphere of education is marked by two great institutions, Nalanda and Vikramshila universities, both of which predate Oxford and Cambridge. Though the revival of Nalanda has been on and the campus is being developed close to the ancient site, the ruins of Vikramshila located near Antichak village in the Kahalgaon subdivision of Bhagalpur have remained neglected for decades.

Land has been a major problem for central universities in Bihar. The Central University of South Bihar (CUSB) was provided land by the defence ministry from its abandoned airfield in Panchanpur (Gaya), while for the Mahatma Gandhi Central University (Motihari), the wait for its own permanent campus is getting longer and it is still operating from a makeshift campus.

“We have got just 135 acres of land, but that is in two parts, while another 165 acres is yet to be handed over. As a result, the detailed project report cannot be made. Out of the 135 acres also, one part is around 35 acres and another of 100 acres, while the land between them is yet to acquired and handed over. The university, started six years ago, has around 1,400 students and it will only increase if there is required infrastructure. Any work can start only after land is cleared,” said a senior official of the Mahatma Gandhi Central University.

The Kishanganj branch of Aligarh Muslim University was started in 2014, but it is also still operating from rented accommodation despite being given 224 acres of land. It is awaiting funds for building construction and recently a social media campaign has been launched demanding funds for it so that it could have its own campus and much needed expansion.

(This article was published in Hindustan Times)

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