The Centre and the Bihar government are locked in a tug-of-war over the choice of site for setting up a Central university in the state.
While the Centre roots for Gaya because of its good connectivity,the state government prefers Motihari as it is associated with the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.
Official sources say Union Human Resource minister Kapil Sibal is keen on setting up the university at Gaya because of its excellent road,air and rail connectivity.
Sibal also cited the place’s overall locational advantage and low seismic sensitivity after a three-member team of the Union Human Resource Ministry submitted its report to him,after a visit to Gaya.
The committee had zeroed in on an abandoned airfield at Panchananur,located at a distance of around 25 km from the Gaya International Airport and hardly 15 km from Gaya Railway Station on the Grand Chord line.
The land is at present in the possession of the Union Defence Ministry,the sources said.
Gaya is a holy place for both Hindus and Buddhists and is connected to Bangkok,Colombo,Myanmar with direct flights and the road connectivity to it is also very good.
Sibal’s choice of Gaya was vehemently opposed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar,who said Motihari in East Champaran district would be the right choice on account of its being the workplace of Mahatma Gandhi.
Kumar argued,”It will deal a blow to people’s sentiments in Bihar… Bihar government will never agree to the Centre’s decision to set up the central university in Gaya.”
Kumar said the state government was ready to extend all cooperation to the Centre if it agreed to set up the university at Motihari and was even ready to make available land free of cost.
Kumar also said that there was no need to set up the university in Gaya because a bigger university (Magadh University) was already functioning from there.
Pointing out that the Centre had set up Central universities in remote places in Kerala,Odisha,Punjab,Himachal Pradesh,Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu,he said he was at a loss to understand why it was applying a different yardstick for Bihar.
“The state government is competent and capable enough to set up a university on its own and it does not require resources from any other quarter,” he asserted.
Sibal,in a letter to Kumar,had said,”Locating the Central university in a place where adequate physical and social infrastructure will not be available and quality faculty cannot be attracted will be detrimental to this thought.”
In his response,Kumar said the letter reflected “arrogance and abrasiveness” on the part of Sibal and “we will not allow forceful terms and conditions being laid down”.
Kumar’s opposition to Gaya has support of both the houses in the Bihar Legislature which on March 1 adopted a unanimous resolution to pressure the Union HRD Ministry and the Central government to set up the university at Motihari.
Kumar said he would also write to the Defence Minister challenging the ‘unilateral’ decision of Defence Ministry to transfer the land in Gaya to Union HRD Ministry without holding consultations with his government.
He said the Centre should have consulted his government before taking the ‘unilateral’ decision for selecting Gaya.