WITH the AYUSH Ministry pushing for it, the HRD Ministry is learnt to have changed its stand on a proposal to elevate Gujarat’s Ayurved University into the league of IITs, AIIMS and IISERs.
Last year, the HRD Ministry had sought strong justification for Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s plea to make the Jamnagar-based Gujarat Ayurved University (GAU) an Institute of National Importance (INI).
An INI is a premier academic institution specialising in an area of national importance. It is set up by an Act of Parliament and receives recognition and funding from the Union government. Currently, there are 91 INIs, including all the IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, IISERs and NITs.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), The Sunday Express has learnt, had forwarded Rupani’s letter to the HRD Ministry and AYUSH Ministry in October last year. In its comments to the PMO, the HRD Ministry had flagged two concerns. First, that GAU is a state university which, in stature, is bigger than an institute. Second, there’s nothing that GAU as a state university cannot achieve that could be facilitated by INI status. The HRD Ministry had hence opposed the proposal.
However, last month, AYUSH Secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha wrote to the HRD Ministry requesting it to reconsider its comments and send a suitable positive response to the PMO. In his letter, Kotecha pushed for INI recognition for GAU on the ground that no educational institute of ayurveda in the country had the status.
Following this, the HRD Ministry is learnt to have dropped its objections and written back to Kotecha stating that it has no problem if AYUSH Ministry were to move a Cabinet note to make GAU an INI.
Confirming this to The Sunday Express, Higher Education Secretary R Subrahmanyam said, “We reconsidered our stand at the AYUSH Ministry’s request. We have no problem if they want to grant INI status to Gujarat Ayurved University by investing more in it and expanding its infrastructure.” Subrahmanyam was not the secretary at the time the HRD Ministry opposed the proposal.
When The Sunday Express reached Kotecha for comment, he acknowledged his ministry’s keenness to have an ayurveda INI in the country, but denied making a case specifically for GAU.
“There is no Institute of National Importance in AYUSH. We have written saying that there should be an INI in AYUSH. But no decision has been taken in favour of any particular university. Whether it has to be Gujarat Ayurved University or some other university has not been decided yet. That is a decision that will have to be taken only after consultations, and once a consensus has evolved, we will move ahead. As of now we are not moving any Cabinet note on INI for Gujarat Ayurved University,” he said.
Last year, the AYUSH Ministry had started the All India Institute of Ayurveda as an autonomous organisation on the lines of AIIMS. The institute, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is conceived as an apex institute for ayurveda and will offer postgraduate and doctoral programmes in different disciplines of ayurveda. It doesn’t have INI status either.
Kotecha is a well-known ayurveda exponent. His appointment as special secretary in the AYUSH Ministry last year was probably the first instance of lateral entry into a secretary-level position from outside the civil service. He has been associated with Vijnana Bharati, which is one of the outfits of the RSS. Kotecha was also the vice-chancellor of GAU from 2013 to 2016.
GAU was established by an Act of the Gujarat Assembly and it offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in ayurvedic pharmaceutical sciences, ayurvedic medicinal plant sciences and yoga and naturopathy.