CUK: In Search of Land
By virtue of Central Universities Act 2009 twelve new Central Universities were established in the country, in the States which did not have any Central university. Two more, one in Jammu and another one for North Bihar were added by an amendment to the Act of 2009. It was actually the culmination of the 1969 recommendation of Justice Gagender Ghadkar, the then Chief Justice of India, for opening a Central University in every State.
Among the objectives for establishing these Universities two stood out as the primary objectives while establishing these universities. One, they act as role model to the State universities and inculcate a sense of respect for federal culture at the State level. Second, these Universities shall pay special attention to the improvement of social and economic conditions and welfare of the people, their intellectual, academic and cultural development. All these lofty goals aside, even after nearly a decade we have not been able to zero in on the site for construction of the university inKashmir.
Two days back, Education Minister informed the State Assembly that construction work of Central University at present site in Tulmulla Ganderbal has been stopped on the directions of MHRD, and the State Government has been asked to look for an alternate site. Many people are seeing political reasons behind this move. while there are plausible reasons for stopping the work, but why this dithering for so long?
While Central Universities in most of the States have shifted to their new campuses, foundation for buildings of Kashmir Central University is still a distant dream. Even boundary wall has not been completed till date. MHRD asked the State government to identify the places and provide three best sites to the Central Government so that they are able to finalize one among them. A detailed pro-forma had been sent by the Central Government to the State to be filled along with the proposed sites. Among other things, details about the distance of site, from main market place, besides distance from Highway, railway station and Airport had to be provided. Other important parameters which had to be taken care of were availability of nearby good schools, power connection and accessibility to main road. DCs of various districts like Pulwama, Budgam and Baramullah submitted the detailed reports about the available sites along with revenue extracts and other relevant information.
While Central Government would provide all the requisite funds for building infrastructure but two important conditions had to be met by the State Government before site could be finalised; one, the quantum of land had to be between 2500 to 3500 kanals and more importantly Central Government would not pay anything for acquisition of land.
There were only two options available to the State Government either to purchase the proprietary land from its own resources or to look for free of cost State land. In fact for every National or Central institute coming up in any State it is a prerequisite that the land along with road, water connection and power supply, have to be arranged by the respective State Governments. For any small or backward State it is very difficult to arrange funds for purchase of huge chunk of land required for these institutions of excellence, so all these State Governments look out for State land, which comes free of cost. But then the land which has remained fallow and free from illegal occupation till date is asking for too much and if such a big chunk of land is available then it must be the one which is practically worthless, no use. And that is exactly what happened.
J&K is a land deficient State, there is a tremendous pressure on this meagre resource. And to find single chunk of land to the tune of 3000 kanals, and that too free of cost, is a Herculean task. With the implementation of Roshni Act in the year 2007 all the State land under occupation of people has become the proprietary land of the people who had been occupying these lands, making it all the more difficult to find State land for public purposes. While earlier it was legally possible for the Revenue authorities to evict the occupants of the State land without paying them any compensation, as and when such land was needed for any public purpose, but with occupants getting proprietary rights it is like any other private land and Government has to pay compensation as per the State Land Acquisition Act.
Coming back to the site of Central University Kashmir, it was an administrative compulsion that the University has to come up in Ganderbal, so all other sites were not even looked at. Two sites had been proposed at Ganderbal one was near Beehama, behind SSP office and second one was near Tulmulla. MHRD team visited both the sites in September 2009. One behind SSP office is a marshy land and it was rejected by the team in a matter of few minutes. Second one had around 1200 kanals of Rakh and Farms land in Kurhama village which was under occupation of people who had been growing paddy on this land for decades. Water table on this land was high, within two to three feet one could fund water.
That is why no construction had come up on this site even though it was just few hundred meters away from the villages of Tulmulla and Kurhama. Rest of all the land transferred to Central University is marshy on which no construction is possible. People from Ganderbal had a grudge that presumably they had been deprived of Islamic University, so there was a tremendous pressure on the Government that they should get Central University in Ganderbal to compensate for loss of earlier proposed University. Umpteen number of high level teams from MHRD along with experts from CPWD have visited the site, opinion of most of these teams has been that for any construction massive underground piling is needed, increasing the cost of construction manifold and still buildings can not go beyond two stories.
Present Vice Chancellor while speaking to Greater Kashmir on 12th December 2016 blamed the delay in construction pf buildings on poor quality of land having low carrying capacity. Marshy land and high water table in the remaining patch makes the site unviable for an institution which is expected to have a high foot fall. Issue of site has unnecessarily been kept lingering for too long resulting in big loss to the State. By now University should have been functional and moved on to next step of consolidation on academic front, but unfortunately even after a decade or so decision about final site seems to be alluding. Announcement of Education Minister that it will remain in Ganderbal district but at a different site should come as a reassurance. Hope without wasting any further time matter is sorted out sooner so that University starts functioning from its permanent campus at the earliest.