Best Gift of the PM Modi to Patna University on Centenary Function

Khagendra Kumar

Chief Editor

Patna University turned 100 years this month and Centenary celebration was held today, i.e. on 14 October 2017  on the premises of Patna Science College in the presence of  Prime Minister of India, Narendra Bhai Modi; Governor  of Bihar, Satya Pal Malik; Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar and galaxy of central and state ministers; many of them were alumni of the Patna University.
I was keenly observing the preparation of the today’s function of the centenary celebration of Patna University for over a month and I came to the conclusion that the university autonomy has been badly eroded by the bureaucratic system. The interference of the bureaucracy marred the charm and pleasure of a celebration which comes once in 100 years. For many, it was an ordeal.  
It was a pleasant moment for us when the Prime Minister in his address said that we have freed IIMs from all kinds of bureaucratic hassles and control and provided them highest kind of autonomy. Red tapeism is over in these institutions. He appeared to be on the side of university autonomy and freedom from increasing red tapeism and bureaucratic control.  
He stressed on de-learning of already poured in cooked knowledge and ideas in the mind of our students,  which has kept their mind closed for thinking and innovations. He wanted this shift in the role of a university in order to produce promising talents who could think new and make innovations, but not without taking indigenous needs and contexts into account. Universities need to stand-up and make their own plans for big changes, rightly suggested by the Prime Minister.  The role of universities suggested by the Prime Minister has a greater significance because his party and government has often been charged with making restrictions on the university autonomy and dissent voices coming out of them. 
Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar made a fervent appeal from the Prime Minister to make Patna University, a central university. Patna University has been making demands for its conversion into central university for over four decades or so. During the last decade, there was a spurt in the number of central universities. At least one central university was opened in each state and some older universities like Allahabad University, Guru Ghasidas University, Bilaspur etc. converted into a central university.  At present, there are 46 central universities in India. Most of them have parochial cultural contrary to few old central universities which attract students from all over India and some neighbouring countries.  There are several state universities which are better known than most of the central universities in terms of quality and achievement. Calcutta (Kolkata), Madras (Chennai) and Bombay (Mumbai) universities in spite of being oldest universities of the country preferred to remain state universities. But these universities attract students from across the country and command status not less than best known central universities of the country. These universities are well connected to the socioeconomic, political and cultural ethos of the states they belong and have played a crucial role in the development of these states in particular and the country in general. The states and universities have a mutual affinity. Likewise, the prestigious Patna University must remain a state university as it is one of the best assets of Bihar and well connected to the needs and aspirations of the state. Once the Prime Minister did not pay any heed to the fervent appeal of the Chief Minister of Bihar for making Patna University a central university and threw a challenge before us to rise to the opportunity to get selected among one of the ten public universities in order to get a huge fund of Rs. 10,000 crore in a span of five years, the state should come forward with vengeance to rebuild Patna university providing better infrastructure and required teachers at the earliest. It is worth recalling that while delivering a convocation address of Patna University in Shri Krishna Memorial Hall, Gandhi Maidan, Shri Nitish Kumar conceded that if  Patna university is not given central university status, the state will make it better than any central university. The university should also make the new strategy to rebuild itself. 
The Prime Minister delivered a scholarly speech on the historic occasion of the Patna University centenary. He suggested the university to think with outbox mind. Producing only civil servants and CEOs will not help. In the changing global scenario, Pride of a university lies in making innovations and that too must be connected to the indigenous contexts. He also hailed the entrepreneurial ventures of our young startups. In brief, it can be inferred that he tried to suggest our universities and institutions desist from the role of creating job seekers. In his extempore speech, he also suggested shunning teacher centred pedagogical approach based on passing knowledge and information to the students without much scope for thinking and innovation. He suggested teachers to make students learn to think and make innovations. He advocated constructivist approach to teaching where students are prepared to create knowledge. He threw pedagogical challenges before our teachers who still prefer to teach in conventional style with little scope for thinking and innovations.  He also advocated for the highest kind of autonomy for academic institutions. In fact, his address at the Patna University Centenary function will be remembered as one of his finest speeches.
Prof. R.B.P. Singh, Vice-chancellor of the Patna University welcomed the Prime Minister and all distinguished guests with all grace and humility and presented a synoptic view of the university’s glory. Prior to this historical day, he maintained his position in all meetings related to the preparation of this centenary function that the university would not be making any demand from the Prime Minister. Our teachers and students of Patna University wanted to cherish the historical moment with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, dignitaries, and alumni of the Patna University. 
It is indeed a fact that the majority of teachers and students were quite hopeful that the PM would be making an announcement for central university status to PU. Their aspiration increased much after a fervent appeal by the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.  Although they were disappointed after the PM’s address, they gave a warm send-off to the PM and all dignitaries and took pride in the historical moments they witnessed. They also promised the PM in chorus yes, they will keep their university ahead towards excellence.
(Also read the article ‘Making of a Central University’ by Khagendra Kumar & Sudhakar Prasad Singh published in Third Concept, An International Journal of Ideas, New Delhi, January 2009. The article argues that Patna university must remain a state university like first three oldest universities of India)