Two MLAs from Narmada district, a district panchayat member and a representative from the Rajpipla municipality will be among a string of state government appointees that constitute the Board of Governors (BoG) of the new Birsa Munda Tribal University, which Gujarat plans to set up to promote “avenues of higher education and research facilities” for the tribal population.
The Birsa Munda Tribal University Bill 2017 that is expected to be tabled for discussion in the ongoing session of the Assembly stated: “The state government is of the view that the young generation of the tribal population should also have the facilities for higher education at their doorsteps so as to see that they are not at disadvantage in higher studies. It is therefore, proposed to establish and incorporate a teaching and non-affiliating university at Rajpipla, Narmada district to promote avenues of higher education and research facilities, which shall include courses in tribal culture, for the tribal population of the state, as also to preserve the values of the ancient tribal culture.”
However, the government presence in the management of this proposed university is glaring. Apart from the Chancellor (the Governor of Gujarat), both the vice-chancellor and the pro vice-chancellor will be appointed by the state government. Even in the Board of Governors, the state government officials rule the roost.
Among a dozen-plus ex-officio members of the BoG, the members are either secretaries or commissioners with different departments of the state government like tribal development, education, finance, industries and mines, labour and employment, health and family welfare departments.
Among the “ordinary members” of the BoG — 33 per cent of which will be women and 33 per cent will be from scheduled tribes — the state government will have political representation in form of two MLAs from Narmada district, one member of Narmada district panchayat and one member from the Rajpipla municipality. They will be joining the three heads of departments, two principals, one university teacher, four college teachers nominated by the vice-chancellor and four distinguished persons and one donor nominated by the state government.
Despite the heavy presence of government representatives in the BoG, “no statute passed by the board shall have validity until assented to by the state government”. Moreover, every statute passed by the board should also be submitted to the state government “which may give or withhold approval thereto or refer it back to the Board for reconsideration”.
The proposed Tribal University will include faculties of Arts, Education, Sciences, Law, Medicine, Commerce, Management, Tribal Studies, among others. An estimated 15 per cent of Gujarat’s six crore population is tribal, with a majority of them living in the “poorvi patti” or the districts that make up the eastern belt of the state.