Thursday, 16 February 2017

Nalanda University- comedy of errors continues

Nalanda now has about 130 students doing Masters degrees in soft subjects like History, Ecology and Buddhist Philosophy.
The Govt. of India, in its infinite wisdom, has appointed a Science guy, Vijay Bhatkar - who built the first Indian Super Computer- as its Chancellor. Bhatkar is an RSS stalwart whom existing faculty are likely to have problems with.

An Engineering College with Bhatkar at the helm would have no problem getting students. But currently only soft subjects are taught there. Even the most Hindutvadi engineering type doesn't want to mingle with stupid cow worshipping History students. Jhollawallah Marxists are fine because they enjoy a tot of liquor, spicy chicken wings and a meditative puff of charas. Actually that last is a Shaivite trait but I doubt goody goody RSS types keep up that particular aspect of our sacred culture.

The other problem with appointing Bhatkar is that Nitish Kumar- Nalanda's Godfather- is bound to feel aggrieved that his pet project is going to turn into an RSS base. Rajgir residents are already pissed off that their sons and daughters are not being provided for while a huge amount of land and vast sums of money have been lavished to attract some foreign students. Maybe Bhatkar can build links to local schools and promote IT education. But, once again, a man of his seniority seems out of place. I'm not saying Bhatkar can't make something of Nalanda. If he actually goes and lives there half of the problem is solved. Or is it? Suppose Bhatkar makes his home in Rajgir for the next 5 years. He goes to visit local schools and to talk with local communities. Students from Nalanda get involved in local projects. What happens? Nalanda becomes what it used to be- a local institution fostering a local community which attracted foreign students because of localised knowledge based public goods. In other words, Nalanda would succeed but only by being the polar opposite of Amartya Sen's dream for Nalanda- viz. an extra-territorial entity whose staff would have diplomatic passports and get paid in US dollars. Surely, that is the true meaning of Internationalism?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the central act of folly here was to think Nalanda was important because it received grants from foreign kings and attracted foreign students. The truth is Nalanda served a local community with an intense interest in Buddhist doctrine for historical reasons. Nalanda succeeded because it captured knowledge based externalities for a scholastic institution deeply embedded in and interdependent on a like minded local community.
The Indian Govt. and its foreign partners thought they could reverse engineer Nalanda- first bring in foreign money, then foreign students, and then build a campus with strong global linkages and eventually the local community too would start to benefit. This was typical of the thinking behind 'turnkey' development projects, set down anywhere regardless of local conditions, in the Fifties and Sixties.
It is a pity that a scholar of the eminence of Dr. Sen got entangled in this sorry business.