Kalam dissociates himself from Nalanda university

Last Updated 15 September 2011, 14:43 IST

The former president's personal secretary R.K. Prasad told IANS over telephone from Delhi that Kalam dissociated himself from the university, which is coming up in Nalanda district, about two months ago.

"Kalam is no longer connected with the university," Prasad said. He had earlier been appointed the university's first visitor, a key post. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's office could not confirm the news. An official in his office told IANS: "We have no information of any such thing."

Media reports here say Kalam was not in agreement with some of the decisions of the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG). Kumar himself is yet to say anything on the issue.
An official associated with the proposed Nalanda International University said three months ago Kalam had refused to be the visitor.

"Kalam turned down the offer in mid May when a letter from the external affairs ministry reached him in this connection, nearly seven months after the gazette notification was issued and the Nalanda University Act came into force," an official said.

According to officials, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who headed NMG, requested Kalam to accept the offer. The latter said he would teach and have other engagements, but not as a visitor.

The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s but it was Kalam's initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.  Later Kalam was appointed the university's first visitor who was to play a key role in the constitution of the governing body, the varsity's supreme body.

The visitor will also have the power to inspect the varsity and appoint one or more people to review its work and progress. In February 2008, Kalam accompanied by Nitish Kumar visited the site where the land was acquired for the university.

In July this year, it was decided in the meeting of the NMG that the university would begin in 2013 with two schools - the school of historical sciences and the school of environment and ecology - if the Bihar government provided suitable accommodation.

Officials said the state government had acquired nearly 500 acres of land and infrastructure work was on at the site.  The university will be fully residential, like the ancient Nalanda. It will have courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects.

The new university will be built in an area of 446 acres in Rajgir, 10 km from the site of the ancient university in Nalanda district.  A fifth century architectural marvel, the ancient centre of learning was home to over 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers from the world over. Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, it also trained students in subjects such as fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

(Published 15 September 2011, 14:43 IST)

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