While certain organisations want Sanskrit teaching encouraged in schools and universities, there are not many takers for the language in Panjab University (PU). In recent years, the university’s Sanskrit Department has never filled up all of its 60 seats. In the current session, there are only 25 students who are all pursuing MA in Sanskrit. Most of them are from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
The cut off percentage for admission this year was 51.04 for general category students and 45 per cent for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students. It drops by approximately 1 per cent every year, says Shankarji Jha, the department head.
With students nowadays looking at placement opportunities, there are a few takers for a language. “When a student is sure that he will get a job after studying any other subject, why would he opt for Sanskrit? It is for this reason that economics, science, engineering are the sought-after subjects,” said one student. “If the university provides adequate facilities to make the department at par with others, however, more students will come because PU has the only department in the region which offers MPhil and PhD programmes,” he added.
Another student said he was studying the language so that he could choose it as one of the subjects in his civil service exam. In fact, quiet a few students are planning to take the civil service exam because Sanskrit is considered a ‘scoring language’, as compared to other languages, he added. Most, however, hope to get appointed as lecturers after completing their course.
Department head Jha explains the situation: “Adequate staff, scholarship programmes, practical training, good teaching methods, infrastructure, job prospects are some of the important parametres to attract students, but we stand nowhere on these parameters. Sanskrit has somehow lost its importance and the language has become less popular, especially in schools where the teaching should actually begin”.
“Has any Sanskrit teacher ever tried to make students learn the language through mediums such as power-point presentations, documentaries or movies. The teaching methodology in our subject is zero and thus nobody is keen to opt for it,” he added.
The department has around 20 research scholars, of whom 11 are pursuing MPhil but there are only three guides. Of the nine sanctioned professor posts, only three have been filled up. Jha said that three months ago, he had asked PU authorities to recruit four more professors but they only advertised for one post. There were no funds to add new Sanskrit books and magazines in the library and to hold monthly workshops.
“The year is about to end and we are still waiting for new teachers. The authorities say that since we do not have enough students, they cannot provide us with teachers. It is like telling a hospital that the doctors will only be provided if there are enough patients,” said the chairperson.
In the absence of teachers, the research scholars are often asked to take classes. Udyan Aryan, a research scholar, said the university was neglecting not just the department, but the language. “Students are being discouraged. None of the MPhil or PhD students here are getting any scholarship and only two students get funds from UGC,” he alleged.