NOBEL LAUREATE Amartya Sen’s nine-year-long association with the Nalanda University, first as a Chancellor and later as a member of the governing board, has come to an end.
Sen, who had criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, resigned as Chancellor in February 2015 and publicly lashed out at the BJP-led NDA government after stepping down. However, he continued to be a member of the governing board, as he was a part of the Nalanda Mentors Group (NMG) since 2007, which was tasked by the Manmohan Singh government with the revival of the Nalanda University.
But, according to sources, “on November 21, President Pranab Mukherjee, in his capacity as the Visitor of the Nalanda University, approved the constitution of the governing board of the university in accordance with Section 7 of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.”
Besides Sen, former Harvard professor and current Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose and UK-based economist Lord Meghnad Desai — who were all part of the NMG, “which was discharging the functions of the governing board” — have also not been included in the newly-constituted board.
Sources said the governing board has been constituted, with immediate effect, with the following members: “Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, five members from among the member states (India, China, Australia, Laos PDR and Thailand) which provide maximum financial assistance during a period of three years.”
“Former bureaucrat N K Singh, who is now a BJP member, has been nominated as the Indian representative. Apart from him, there are Secretary (East) in MEA, Preeti Saran, two members representing Bihar government, one member not below the rank of additional secretary in the Ministry of HRD, and three members as ‘renowned academicians / educationists’ to be nominated by the central government. These are: Professor Arvind Sharma, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, Canada, Professor Lokesh Chandra, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Dr Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, Niti Aayog,” said the source.
Sources said the President has also approved that the senior-most dean may be temporarily appointed to discharge the duties of the Vice-Chancellor, on completion of the extended term of the current Vice-Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal, which expires on November 24, and in the absence of a new Vice-Chancellor being appointed on or before November 25.
“This will be a stop-gap measure until the new Vice-Chancellor is appointed,” said the source.
The proposal for revival of the Nalanda University was initiated by the previous UPA government in 2007, and the NMG was formed for this purpose. Subsequently, the Nalanda University Act 2010 was passed by Parliament and came into force on November 25, 2010.
According to the Nalanda University Act 2010, the NMG was to exercise the powers of the governing board for a period of one year, with effect from November 25, 2010. “This was later extended to two more years due to the reason that financial contributions from some member states were not received,” sources said.
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The Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill 2013 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in August 2013, for the purpose of amending certain provisions of the Nalanda University Act 2010. This Bill was referred to the standing committee on external affairs which submitted its report to both Houses of Parliament in December 2013.
The Cabinet approved a proposal to move official amendments to the Amendment Bill in February 2014. However, before the Bill could be moved, Parliament was prorogued for general elections. Therefore, the Amendment Bill could not be passed in Parliament.
“Due to these reasons, the term of the NMG which was discharging the functions of the governing board, was extended in November 2013 until a governing board was constituted. This arrangement continued till November 21,” said a source.