When will CUK have its permanent campus?

It has been now more than a decade since the Centrally University of Kashmir (CUK) came into being with no progress in the construction of its permanent campus at the construction site in Tulmulla area of Ganderbal district.

The university came into being in 2009 and since then it was made functional from rented structures in Srinagar district and from last one year the varsity was shifted to Ganderbal and was made functional again from make shift arrangements.

The construction work was started at a designated site at Tulmula, Ganderbal in 2011 after the transfer of 503 acres of land to higher education department (HED) by the state cabinet. However, there is no light at the end of the tunnel despite the passage of around nine years.

With no progress in the construction of permanent campus, the divisional administration last year ordered that the CUK should be shifted to Ganderbal and function in make-shift arrangements. To make it functional in Ganderbal, the varsity administration had to convert a hospital building and other similar structures to a university campus.

Over the past five to six year years, I extensively reported about the delay in setting up the permanent campus of the CUK. Earlier, I had an impression that the varsity administration was deliberately delaying the construction and was missing the deadline thus facing the cost escalation of the project. But my perception changed as the delay in having its permanent campus didn’t deter the varsity administration to run the academic activities for the last 10 years now.

Every university has two important aspects. First is to have its own house, but equally important is its academics. Even if the varsity is lagging behind in terms of infrastructure but it figures among on top in terms of academics in comparison with other universities which were born with it. In view of this we cannot put the blame on the varsity administration for delaying the construction of permanent campus.

Coming to the point of having its own house, the divisional commissioner Kashmir Pandurang Kondbarao Pole in last week of September chaired a meeting with the district administration Ganderbal and CUK administration to review the progress of the construction of the permanent campus Tulmulla Ganderbal.

The meeting might have lasted for hours together which was followed by the spot visit of the divisional commissioner Kashmir at the construction site at Tulmulla. The meeting was chaired to get feedback on the progress of the construction which otherwise never saw any progress for the past eight years now.

In the meeting, the divisional commissioner was told that the delay in completion of the construction of permanent campus was due to poor quality of land due to the low load bearing capacity of the major chunk of land, transferred by the Government to the University. The divisional commissioner has instructed the district administration to identify the additional land in consultation with the CUK for creation of amenities for the University.

This is not the first time when directions were passed for identification of additional land for the university campus. I was astonished to see the statement being mentioned in the minutes of the meeting because it was not the first time that the quality of the land was being questioned. When I interviewed the incumbent VC of the university in May 2017 he complained about the poor quality of land which was transferred to the university by the NC led coalition government.

The former Chief Minister of erstwhile J&K state, late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed also visited the construction site and announced that the university will be provided with alternate quality land in Ganderbal. He passed away before he could fulfil his commitment. Since then the issue remained lingering.

From Kashmir to New Delhi the matter was taken up with everyone that the quality of land is poor and it was not possible to construct a permanent campus at the construction site.

Amid the hue and cry over poor quality of land at the construction site, the government announced that 1000 kanal land, a major chunk of which was in possession with animal husbandry, will be handed over to the university to speed up the construction of the permanent campus. But things did not materialize as the department of animal husbandry refused to transfer the land for its own reasons.

For more than one year, the CUK has been functioning from multiple campuses in Ganderbal district including Green Campus (erstwhile College of Physical Education), Tulmulla Campus (Allotted Site), Nunar Campus (DIET Building), Science and Arts Block (Old District Hospital).

It has been now more than three years since the quality of land came under question but the successive regimes have failed to come up with the solution and remove all the impediments to have a permanent campus of the university in Ganderbal.

The J&K administration seems to be clueless about the issue and is buying time in reviewing the progress of the construction which otherwise has failed to show any progress for the past nine years.

AIt is also on record that the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) two years ago directed the J&K government to provide alternate land for construction of the permanent campus of CUK. The MHRD also passed directions to stop all the construction work on the existing construction site. But three years on, only construction was stopped but the government did not come up with a solution to the basic problem- to provide alternative land for construction.

The then minister for education Syed, Muhammad Altaf Bukhari in February 2018 put it on record in the Legislative Assembly that the permanent campus of CUK cannot be completed unless shifted to the alternative place within the same district.

Two years later, the divisional administration last month has now passed the directions for the identification of the additional land for the construction of permanent campus.

It is to be seen whether the directions will bear any results or will meet the fate of previous announcements made for the identification of alternate land for construction. Next time, the divisional commissioner should not chair a meeting to review the progress of construction but should convene the meeting to see the progress of his directions passed for identification of alternative land. Otherwise, the story of this campus is like a tunnel with no end, and no light