Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday that the central government would give Rs 10,000 crore to 20 “world-class universities” in the country over five years. As Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sought that Patna University be declared a central university, Modi said it should instead strive to become one such world-class university.
The two were sharing the stage at the centenary celebrations of Patna University, their first joint public meeting in the state since the JD(U) joined hands with the NDA three months ago.
Calling central university “an old thing”, Modi said, “It is a matter of serious concern that no Indian university is among 500 best universities of the world. This is when we once had universities like Nalanda and Vikramshila… The central government has come out with a scheme of choosing 10 private and as many public universities. The selection will not be done by the Centre or on a CM’s recommendation. There would be third-party evaluation by a professional agency. Such universities would be given Rs 10,000 crore over five years. Such universities will be free from government rules and regulations and can chart their own course.”
Later, at a rally in Mokama, Modi launched road, bridge and sewage water treatment projects worth Rs 3,750 crore, and said no central government had done as much for Bihar’s infrastructure as NDA. “In Bihar alone, road and bridge projects worth Rs 53,000 crore have either started or are about to start. I do not recall a central government that has done so much for infrastructure in Bihar in such a limited time.”
Of the Rs 1.25 lakh crore special package that Modi had announced for Bihar during the 2015 Assembly polls campaign, road and bridge projects account for Rs 55,000 crore. Laying the foundation stone for a six-lane bridge over the Ganga, linking Mokama and Begusarai, and extension of a four-lane NH-30 from Bakhtiyarpur to Mokama, he said the Centre and state would march shoulder to shoulder for Bihar’s development. Nitish profusely thanked the PM, for his “support and blessings”, but also sought backing for other bridge and road projects.
At the gathering at Mokama, the PM invoked both poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Dalit icon Baba Chuharmal, who were born nearby. Taking an indirect dig at RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Modi said, “There are people who used to say Bihar did not need roads as his people did not have cars… Now when I meet my MPs, road construction is the most common demand. Rural roads are necessary not just for communication but also for linking to big growth centres.”
Enumerating the Centre’s achievements, Modi talked about giving LPG connections to three crore people. “Five crore families have got toilets in their homes. I appeal to the people of Bihar to join the ODF (open defecation free) mission.”
The CM said the choice of Mokama for the meeting was perfect. “This area has sent me to the Lok Sabha five times. I only want to add that there should a bridge over the Ganga at Patna and another at Mokama. My other demand is for Buxar, the land of Vishwamitra, to be directly linked by road to Varanasi, which is the PM’s parliamentary seat.”
Nitish also raised the topic of desilting of the Ganga. “We should not only be concerned with the cleanliness of the Ganga but also with continuity of its flow,” he said. Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, LJP president and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi were also present at the Mokama function.