Ill-advised move

Education, it appears, is not a priority issue for the BJP government in Karnataka. The Yeddyurappa cabinet’s decision last Friday to take away 20 acres of land from the Karnataka Veterinary Animal and Fisheries Science University’s Hebbal campus reflects its skewed thinking. Shockingly, it is a unilateral decision as the varsity stakeholders were not even consulted, let alone their concurrence being sought. Understandably, teachers, students and administrators are angry. Even former vice chancellors have expressed their disappointment and anger over the decision and there is a sense of helplessness.

However, the government is utterly insensitive to the hurt feelings of the varsity community. More seriously, it is not even bothered about the serious implications of its decision for the varsity’s future. Deprived of almost one-fifth of its land, the varsity will find it difficult to implement its future expansion plans. At stake is not just the varsity’s growth and expansion. The government decision exposes the varsity to the danger of losing its mandatory recognition by the Veterinary Council of India. The council’s guidelines require that the varsity has in its possession a minimum of 150 acres of land for infrastructural purposes. The varsity did not have the stipulated land area even earlier. It had been hoping to get some 77 acres of land from the adjoining University of Agricultural Sciences campus, but the agricultural varsity, however, remains reluctant to part with it. Historically, the veterinary college — the main institution under the veterinary varsity’s Hebbal campus — was an integral part of the agricultural varsity until the establishment of the separate varsity for veterinary sciences a few years ago.

The declared purpose of acquiring the varsity land is to build houses for the high court judges whose number has increased in recent years. While there are obvious questions if a premier educational institution should be made to suffer to facilitate a convenient residential colony for judges, there is reason also to question the government’s intentions. A few years ago, the government had acquired almost 10 acres of land from what was then just the Hebbal Veterinary College campus to set up an agro engineering facility. But the facility was closed down within a few years and instead of returning the land to the college, the government merrily diverted the land to build residential quarters to members of the state legislature. Civil society must join the academic community to prevail upon the government to retract its ill-advised decision. 

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