Panel for agriculture varsity in MP, not UP

Rahul Gandhi promised institute at Jhansi

Geographical reality has proved to be a hurdle for the UPA government to deliver on one of the promises Rahul Gandhi made to turn around the Congress’ fortune in Uttar Pradesh (UP), particularly in the southern districts that are part of the impoverished and underdeveloped Bundelkhand region. 

The Congress vice-president has promised a Central Agriculture University at Jhansi and subsequently prodded the Union government to expedite the Rs 497 crore project.

The university, however, may come up in Madhya Pradesh, as the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh (MP) argued that Chhatarpur would be the ideal location as it is at the centre of Bundelkhand.

Bundelkhand comprises seven districts of  UP and six districts of MP. In an apparent bid to boost the Congress’ electoral prospects in southern UP, Rahul had in 2009 pushed the Union government to consider a comprehensive package for the development of Bundelkhand.  He along with a few Congress MPs and MLAs from the region had submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting a package that included a Central Agricultural University.

The Government initially moved ahead to set up the university at Jhansi, but a Parliamentary panel has now rejected the government’s arguments in favour of UP and recommended that the proposed varsity should have its headquarters in MP.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture recommended that the government should rework the “Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University Bill 2012” in order to have the campus at Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh. The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on May 22. It had proposed to have the headquarters and two colleges of the varsity in Jhansi. However, it also had provisions to have two more colleges in Madhya Pradesh.

After studying the bill, the panel in its recent report opined that Chhatarpur, rather than Jhansi, qualified to be the “most appropriate location” for the varsity as it is at the centre of Bundelkhand.

The panel also snubbed the Department of Agricultural Research and Education of the Union Ministry of Agriculture for misrepresenting facts by showing Jhansi as central location in Bundelkhand, though it was located at one corner of the region.

“Geographically, Chhatarpur is centrally located. So the university for Bundelkhand should be set up in Chhatarpur. But the Union government is trying to have it in Jhansi, ostensibly for political interests,” alleged Virendra Kumar, BJP MP from Tikamgarh, the parliamentary constituency that includes parts of Chhatarpur.

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