Govt in OU land storm

Govt in OU land storm

Govt in OU land storm. The Telangana government’s proposal to take over Osmania University land for the purpose of weaker section housing has snowballed into a political controversy.

The Telangana government’s proposal to take over Osmania University land for the purpose of weaker section housing has snowballed into a political controversy. The simmering discontent in the university is taking an agitation form. Political parties are rallying and the civil society is also strongly criticising the government’s move. None is opposed to the idea of providing poor with permanent housing facility. But, the contention is over alienating university lands.

Instead of retrieving the already lost lands to the university, the government’s decision to deprive it of basic infrastructure is obviously reprehensible. Decades of official callousness resulted in land grabbers with political clout usurping university lands and continuing to enjoy them even today. The rulers have to understand the role of a university in its complete perspective. The present argument that a varsity does not require the land which it now possesses is devoid of any understanding of the role the universities have been assigned the world over.

In the Encyclopedia Britannica (15th Ed.) ‘University’ has been described as follows: “The university’s basic traditional functions remain unchanged, enabling students to learn from their cultural heritage, helping them to realise their intellectual and creative abilities, and encouraging them to become humane and responsible people. The university expands knowledge across the entire spectrum of disciplines, and it can add to the understanding and enjoyment of life. It continues to be needed for imaginative solutions to the problems of society.”

University Education Commission headed by Dr S Radhakrishnan (Para 2 of Part I, Chapter II) describes the universities as “as the Organs of Civilization,” and observes that, “He indeed must be blind who does not see that, mighty as are the political changes, far deeper are the fundamental questions which will be decided by what happens in the universities. Everything is being brought to the test of reason, venerable theologies, ancient political institutions, time-honoured social arrangements, a thousand things which a generation ago looked as fixed as the hills.

If India is to confront the confusion of our time, she must turn for guidance, not to those who are lost in the mere exigencies of the passing hour, but to her men of letters, and men of science, to her poets and artists, to her discoverers and inventors. These intellectual pioneers of civilization are to be found and trained in the universities, which are the sanctuaries of the inner life of the nation.” The Commission further stated, “If our universities are to be the makers of future leaders of thought and action in the country, as they should be, our degrees must connote a high standard of scholarly achievement in our graduates.”

Such standards cannot be possible without adequate infrastructure like land, buildings, laboratories, libraries, etc. In the concluding part of its First Chapter, Dr D S Kothari Committee notes: “The function of the university is not only to preserve, disseminate and advance knowledge but also to furnish intellectual leadership and moral tone to society. No less important is the role of universities in promoting national integration and a common culture, and in bringing about the social transformation that is desired. Finally, universities have also to provide trained personnel to advance the country’s prosperity by making full use of modern knowledge.”

The Supreme Court of India in Prof Yashpal & Anr. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh & Ors, 2005 observed: “A University having no infrastructure or teaching facility of any kind would still be in a position to confer degrees and thereby create a complete chaos in the matter of co-ordination and maintenance of standards in higher studies which would be highly detrimental for the whole nation.” Should we allow our varsities to be deprived of basic infrastructure like land to do such disservice to the nation?

The court further observed in this judgement: “What is necessary is actual establishment of institutions having all the infrastructural facilities and qualified teachers to teach there. Only such colleges or institutions which impart quality education allure the best students. Until such institutions are established which provide high level of teaching and other facilities like well-equipped libraries and laboratories and a good academic atmosphere, good students would not be attracted.”

Therefore, the objection is that the lands of universities should not be alienated. Quite unfortunately, the question is wrongly posed as if the choice is between the needs of universities and the housing requirements of the poor. In fact, these public-owned universities primarily cater to the needs of the poor students. Commercialisation of higher education is already taking away higher education from the ambit of the poor and low income groups. Depriving these universities of basic infrastructure like land will make them much more incapacitated to serve the growing needs of the marginalised.

Impoverishing institutions of higher learning in public domain would only lead to further pauperisation of the poor in a knowledge economy (The Hans India Editorial, ‘Irrational move,’ May 21, 2015). Universities world over have autonomy. Even the Supreme Court in several judgments upheld that universities might be solely or partially funded by the government, but, they cannot be construed as government authority. The government cannot alienate university land without the consent of the university administration.

On December 12, 1984 , the syndicate of the Osmania University, stressed that no land on the campus should be alienated for any purpose and no land in the campus should be alienated to any institution not connected with higher education, research and training. The syndicate adopted a resolution in this regard on December, 26, 1986. The syndicate resolved that the practice of allotting university land to the outside agencies of either educational or research nature or otherwise be dispensed with totally.

The one man commission of Justice Chinnappa Reddy appointed by the university (1994) in its report has rightly observed, “It is now axiomatic that the universe of knowledge is ever expanding and the growth has been particularly fast in recent years. The growth of knowledge necessarily involves the springing up of a host of new disciplines in the university and expansion of every one of the existing disciplines. It is not for the authorities of the university to fritter away the land of the university…” (Page 9-10) The observation of this renowned jurist is more relevant today than ever before, with the emergence of knowledge economy.

The Chinnappa Reddy Commission in unequivocal terms further stated, “The very demand and pressure for land should put the university authorities on their guard against alienating university land to anyone, be it an individual or an organisation and whether private or public, governmental or non-governmental.” This observation should be an eye-opener to the Telangana government.

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