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Major setback for Nitish's dream Nalanda varsity project

September 19, 2011 13:05 IST

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his team, including a powerful former bureaucrat in New Delhi, have failed in their efforts to persuade former president A P J Abdul Kalam to continue as visitor of the upcoming Nalanda International University in the state.

After Kalam dissociated himself from the university in Bihar, Nitish Kumar personally tried his level-best to persuade him to continue as visitor of the university, but failed.

"Nitish Kumar failed to persuade Kalam after he declined to be the visitor of the university," an official in chief minister's office told in Patna on Monday.

It is seen as a major set back to Nitish Kumar's dream project -- the Nalanda International University at the ancient seat of learning in the state.

In 2008, Kalaml accepted to be the first visitor of the upcoming university after a request was made by Nitish Kumar. The visitor was to play a key role in the constitution of the governing body -- the university's supreme body.

The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s, but it was the then president's initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.

After that Kalam repeatedly expressed his keen interest in the project and was involved in it. In February 2008, Kalam accompanied with Nitish Kumar visited the site where the land was acquired for the university.

An official closely associated with the upcoming university told on condition of anonymity that Kalam was unhappy over functioning of the Nalanda Mentor Group headed by Noble Laureate Amartya Sen.

"Kalam was unhappy over some decisions, including appointment of a reader of New Delhi-based Lady Sri Ram college, Gopa Sabrawal, as vice chancellor of the upcoming international university," he said.

However, with Kalam no more involved with the university, the search for a new victor has been started by the concerned authorities.

In July, it was decided in the meeting of Nalanda Mentor Group headed by Amartya Sen in Patna that global competition will be held to get the best architectural design for the Nalanda International University.

It was also decided in the meeting that the university would begin in 2013 with two schools -- the school of historical sciences and the school of environment and ecology -- if the Bihar government provided suitable accommodation.

The new university will be built on an area of 446 acres in Rajgir, 10 km from the site of the ancient university in Nalanda district.

The university would carry out academic activities from rented premises for the time being till the construction of its own campus, an official said.

The excavated site of the ancient university at Nalanda is a place of national importance. A fifth century architectural marvel, the university was home to over 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers.

Named after the Sanskrit term for 'giver of knowledge', the ancient varsity, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from South Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a seat of higher education in India.

Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, it also trained students in subjects such as fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

Officials said the state government acquired nearly 500 acres of land needed for the Nalanda International University and infrastructure work was on at the site.

The university will be fully residential, like in the ancient Nalanda. The university will have courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects.

M I Khan in Patna