Patna: Lamenting that no Indian university figures among the top 500 globally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the government intends to unshackle these institutions and provide Rs10,000 crore to 20 varsities to ensure that they are counted among the best in the world.
Addressing a function on the centenary celebrations of the Patna University in Patna, he said measures like grant of central status were “a thing of the past" and his government has taken “a step forward" towards making 10 private universities and 10 government ones world class.
“My government took an important step towards unshackling the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management), freeing them from the clutches of restrictions and regulations set by the government. We intend to do the same for our universities and ensure that our centres of higher learning figure among the best 500 in the world," Modi said at the event.
In his speech that lasted a little over 30 minutes, the prime minister stressed on the need for universities to give more emphasis on “learning and innovation" and give up old teaching methods which focused on “cramming students’ minds with information".
The prime minister also replied in his characteristic style to a fervent plea by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who in his welcome address had urged Modi “with folded hands that central status be granted to Patna University". “I would like to say something about a demand that was raised here and met with loud cheers by the young crowd attending this ceremony. Issues like grant of central status have become a thing of the past. We are taking a step forward. We will provide an assistance of Rs10,000 crore to 10 private universities and an equal number of government ones for a period of five years. All these universities have to do is to demonstrate their potential to become world class," he said.
The universities will not be selected by the prime minister or a chief minister or any other political figure, he said, adding their potential will be assessed by a professional, third party agency. “I exhort Patna University to seize this opportunity," he said in the presence of a host of dignitaries, which included Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi.
Hailing the role of young IT professionals in changing the global outlook towards India, Modi quipped “earlier we were seen as a land of snake charmers, exorcism and superstitions. “Long back, while on a visit to Taiwan, I told a friend that we, as a nation, have moved from snakes to the mouse," he said. Modi said, “We are a nation of 800 million young people, 65% of our population is below the age of 35 years. There is nothing that we cannot achieve with such a huge demographic advantage."
The PM began his speech on a humorous note, saying “the chief minister said in his speech that I was the first prime minister to visit this university. It seems my predecessors have left quite a few tasks for me".
He also paid rich tributes to the rich and glorious history of Bihar, saying “the stream of knowledge that flows through this state is as ancient as the river Ganges itself". “The state has been devoting itself to the worship of Saraswati (goddess of learning). But the time has come to propitiate Laxmi (goddess of wealth and prosperity) as well and make the state a prosperous one by 2022, when we celebrate 75 years of our Independence," he said.
He also remarked “there is no state in the country where one does not find a Patna University alumnus among the top five bureaucrats. I have had the opportunity to work with many such bright officers". Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ashwini Chaubey and Upendra Kushwaha were among those present during the event.
After attending the PU function, the PM paid an unscheduled visit to the Bihar Museum, situated adjacent to the Patna high court, which has been a pet project of chief minister Nitish Kumar. The chief minister accompanied Modi during the museum visit.
This is the prime minister’s first full-fledged official tour to the state since the Bharatiya Janata Party became a part of the ruling coalition in Bihar in July this year after Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) snapped its alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress.