Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 23
The latest such case involves the demand from Tamil Nadu to name the central university in the state after DMK patriarch and state chief minister M. Karunanidhi. Interestingly, the said university was first proposed at Trichy, which had locational and infrastructural advantage over other sites. It was however moved to Thiruvarur, a remote place which HRD officials say is not "very suitable" (it is about 300 km from Chennai). Its only advantage -- it is very close to Karunanidhi’s birth place, Thirukuvalai..
If that wasn’t enough, Tamil Nadu education minister has now written to HRD ministry to name the said university as Dr Kalaignar (meaning “artist”) M Karunanidhi University after the chief minister, who is a a strong UPA ally. There, however, is a problem with this demand, ministry sources say. "We have no precedence of naming government-funded universities after people who are alive. There are only three existing universities named after legends once they passed on. These are: Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala; JNU and Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad."
But this logic doesn’t seem enough to turn down the state’s demand in this election season. The ministry has reportedly said it will take up the matter in consultation with the state. And this, despite existing limitations.
Another such situation has arisen in the case of Uttarakhand, where politics is inspiring the demand to upgrade the existing Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal state university to a central one. H.N. Bahuguna was a Congress stalwart from the region; his son Vijay Bahuguna is now a Congress MP from Tehri Garhwal. Interestingly, the ministry is said to have received a note in this connection from 10 Janpath.
Conceding to this demand will not be easy, considering HRD ministry’s repeated arguments against converting state universities into central universities. "In such cases, we inherit financial liability. New work ethos can’t be evolved, inertia levels remain the same. We would, any day, prefer new set-ups. Moreover, past experiences of upgrading state universities have proved disastrous, like Allahabad University," sources say.
But demands continue, with the ministry now considering central status for two more universities — this time located in the stronghold of HRD minister Arjun Singh. These include Guru Ghasi Das University, Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh and Hari Singh Gour University, Sagar in Madhya Pradesh.
Even state governments are using the occasion to score political points.