By Ranjana Narayan
New Delhi, Jan 5 (IANS) The revived Nalanda University, an international centre of learning coming up in Bihar, is taking a small but positive step towards launching operations from later this year.
The first batch of students, faculty and staff are to move by February-end to Rajgir, about 100 km from Patna, adjacent to where the sprawling international university is set to come up.
“By the end of February we are moving to Rajgir. We are taking hotels nearby, exploring all options,” an official source told IANS.
Nalanda University at present has 40 students or Nalanda fellows. Along with the faculty and staff, they would operate out of the temporary campus till the actual structure comes up.
“The Bihar government has offered us use of its health department office. The Bihar chief minister (Nitish Kumar) is personally monitoring the project,” the source added.
The university, an initiative of the Indian government and the 18 East Asia Summit (EAS) countries, is coming up around 12 km from the ruins of its ancient namesake that was flocked by thousands of scholars and thinkers from across the world till the 12th century. It was then destroyed by an invading Turkish army of Bakhtiyar Khilji, a general of Qutbuddin Aibak. It was set on fire by the invaders and the blaze in the huge library is believed to have raged for several days.
An around eight-km boundary wall marks the 446-acre campus where the modern centre of excellence is to come up.
The residential university, due to be completed by 2020, is to have seven schools – all for postgraduate and doctorate students.
The university, which has Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as its chairperson, is to start its first academic session from this year. The first batch of students would be enrolled for two postgraduate programmes in history and ecology and environmental studies.
Last May, the Nalanda board had approved the architectural plan of the proposed university.
“The government is fast-tracking the university,” said the source. The Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Sep 5, 2013, by the external affairs ministry and was referred to a parliamentary standing committee. The committee’s report was tabled in the Rajya Sabha during the December winter session of parliament.
The department of expenditure has cleared the Rs.2,700 crore cost for the university to be spent over 10 years. The approval of the cabinet committee on economic affairs is now being sought.
The architectural design approved for the new university has proposed a massive lake at the centre of the campus. The library, a huge dome-shaped structure, would come up in the middle of the lake and be half submerged.
China has already committed $1 million for the project, Singapore has pledged $5-6 million and Australia about $1 million Australian dollars. All the funds have been committed on a voluntary basis.
During his trip to Brunei in October, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inked agreements with seven EAS countries that have pledged their commitment to the Nalanda University project.
The memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed with Australia, Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Laos and Myanmar. India signed the Mou with China during the prime minster’s visit to Beijing in November.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)