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How Tagore's legacy is being encroached upon

December 01, 2017 10:29 IST

Tagore had a song for every occasion. Perhaps one of his songs on greed could become the anthem for the once hallowed Visva Bharati, says Keya Sarkar.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

It was about a decade ago that the powers that be at Tagore's Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan convinced the University Grants Commission that it needed to build a wall around the campus to save it from encroachments.

 

The UGC, which primarily grants funds to augment education at central universities such as Visva Bharati, probably saw the logic in what the authorities were saying and granted the required money and permissions.

So a 25 km-long wall was built around Visva Bharati's enormous campus at an alleged cost of Rs 19 crore.

Although many protests were held at the ugliness of six to eight feet walls instead of sturdy fencing, the university held protesters at bay saying this was the only option to save the campus.

Many entry and exit gates were built with the promise to turn the campus into a true gated community by manning them with security personnel.

All those who were intellectually aghast at the thought of this constriction for a place of education where Tagore had thought students would be in communion with nature, accepted it as a necessity of their times.

Once the wall was built and the pockets of building contractors had been lined, all anxiety of the university seemed to cease.

The wall was broken by encroachers at several places, with the university turning a blind eye.

No gate was ever shut and no security personnel ever appointed to man them.

I do not know the audit process in central universities and have no idea whether a reality check is ever carried out on activities with sanctioned funds.

Thankfully for the university and its contractors, the government changed and the United Progressive Alliance, which had sanctioned the funds, was no more in power.

Meanwhile, in another lucky break for the university authorities, about a year-and-a-half ago the vice-chancellor was sacked on grounds of moral turpitude.

Till date, that is, in about three years, no successor has been named and the university is being run by an acting vice-chancellor.

Understandably, no administrative decisions are being taken and the status quo is maintained.

All encroachers, who had designs on university land for carrying on various businesses, are setting up shacks with impunity.

All fields left vacant for students and residents are becoming playgrounds for people not only from neighbouring Bolpur but also for district-level tournaments from around the state.

Such a large-scale influx into the campus area by sundry lumpens not only endangers the safety of the students but also leaves the campus strewn with litter. Not pleasant for a university with no conservation services.

But the university authorities and their various administrative personnel have thick hides and feel no responsibility post building the wall.

What is more disturbing is that recent newspaper reports suggest that the university has found another creative way to line pockets of friends and co-conspirators.

Instead of focusing on the quality of education and the infrastructure to support it, the university apparently now wishes to engage with the tourism ministry to find and help run homestays for tourists.

Apart from the fact that the 'lodges' and homestays, which already exist, aren't bursting at their seams and are in fact complaining about the lack of business, this surely cannot be an area to engage in for any university.

But there is some salubrious talk of funds to renovate potential homestays! More contractors!

Tagore had a song for every occasion. I unfortunately am not well-versed in his literature enough to know his songs on greed. Probably one of them could now become the anthem for this once hallowed university.

Keya Sarkar
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