VISVA BHARATI AS A CENTRAL UNIVERSITY NOW
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consented to be present at the convocation of Visva Bharati, the exact time not being decided yet. A section of Visva Bharati fraternity appealed vehemently to Ms Smriti Irani, then Human Resource Minister, around 3 years back and succeeded in ousting Prof Sushanta Dattagupta from Vice Chancellorship of Visva Bharati about 2 years back. The BJP lobby at Visva Bharati at that time thought that their time had come. But in next two years, till date, the central government has just slept over Visva Bharati. A CBI enquiry was on to implicate Prof Sushanta Dattgupta on various wrong doings; a few other notable heads of VIsva Bharati were supposed to be kicked out. But CBI also has gone for a long sleep, nothing has really happened in Visva Bharati, only Prof Sushanta Dattagupta got kicked out and Prof Swapan Dutta is having a strolling time with Kantha Stiched Shawls at Visva Bharati as an acting Vice Chancellor—great thing for Mr Datta indeed as he was appointed pro Vice Chancellor in Visva Bharati prior a few days of his retirement. So again, we are blessed with a Vice Chancellor, awfully this time an acting Vice Chancellor having peaceful morning walks in the by lanes of Santiniketan and enjoying his resting time at Visva Bharati before the final retirement. Prof Sushanta Dattgupta, whatever may be his wrong doings (as if all others in Visva Bharati are saints personified!), he was a mover. Visva Bharati is now in a pathetic lull, seemingly unending lull. It will be tough for anyone to shake this institution up from the great slumber.
The BJP government at center, has too many pressing demands at hand, even in the education sector. JNU proved to be a spoilt brat raising its protesting heads creating a national stir, and UGC has now clamped down on its large number of mostly MPhil students, and excessive number of PhD aspirants. There can be debates over this, but that’s not the area of focus right now for me. Rabindranath Tagore and his principles on nationalism and purpose of education do not in any way fall in line with BJP ideologue on education (if any); and hence the Central Government has very little real interest in Visva Bharati. That’s the chief reason, according to me; the Central Government appears to be least bothered about the fate of Visva Bharati. The BJP lobby at Visva Bharati feeling ecstatic over the ouster of Prof Sushanta Dattagupta, in the meanwhile turned timid. I do not know if the lobby exists at all today.
In short nothing has really happened in Visva Bharati in last two years except the ouster of a Vice Chancellor, that is Visva Bharati for you.
Just touching the tip of this slumbering institution, I can note a few things, which I would like to share with you all, with a reminder that I am no expert on education, and that I am not really a fool either! Siksha and Vidya Bhavana, the science and social science units of Visva Bharati are in very bad state at graduate and post graduate level. Reasons are pretty simple to me. Private tuition is pervasively rampant in both natural science and social science subjects, suggesting to me (1) that professors are either lazy to teach in classes or in worse case are incapable to teach at graduate and post graduate level and (2) the students hardly feel the need to develop individual insight into deeply probing subjects and find that pvt tuitions are better option. Both are a pure mockery of the system called “higher education”. So, without being an expert on education, as a common man I can easily form some idea about the state of higher education in Siksha and Vidya Bhavana at graduate and post graduate level atleast. About the research area I simply have not much idea, it might or might not be in a better condition than.
Kala Bhavana, on the other hand, still makes some kind of a mark as institution. The reason is again pretty simple, as there is no scope for any pvt tuition here, the students accumulate at least some skill and thinking ability in their respective fields of activity. The guys who will be able to hone these skills further, and can acquire some marketing skill with right supplement of intellectual insight, has a tough but realistic chance to shine in life.
The scenario in Sangit Bhavana is similar to Kala Bhavana, but as music and dance schools these days are found everywhere, the music and dance unit of Visva Bharati do not enjoy the ‘rare’ tag like Kala Bhavana does. On the other hand, as music and dance schools are hot favourite units in urban and semi urban areas, the Sangit Bhavana pass outs can really make a good living by establishing their own schools. Many of the ex students are now having their own schools. So professionally, its not a bad deal either.
Interestingly, in my opinion, the agriculture and allied unit of Visva Bharati, is perhaps the most promising unit in Visva Bharati, as again pvt tuition is not rampant there, and agriculture being a very live and related subject to the immediate surroundings, some work goes on in those units all the time. The units must be engaged in some government projects as well, and funded to some extent by govt agricultural research funding units. Though many of the agriculture graduate and post graduates ultimately shift to corporate sector or banks, a trickling few must be engaged with higher research into agriculture in several première institutions of India and elsewhere. Recently Bhaba Atomic Research Center (BARC) organized a national seminar at Sriniketan. BARC is collaborating with Agricultural Unit of Visva Bharati on some special seeds of rice produced after applying controlled radiation on seeds. The radiation makes the cells of the seed break and reform to create new kind of plants. This is radically different from genetically modified(GM) seeds, where a tiny part of the gene is inserted or taken away, or done both ways, to create a new kind of gene. In radiation method, in fact an old practice actually, no new part of a gene is inserted or taken away. So the genes remain intact, but perhaps align in different arrangement. Anyway this is getting a bit too long, but actually I was enlightened on this by Rita Mukhopadhyay, my batchmate at Siksha Bhavana and a very senior scientist in BARC Mumbai, who came to deliver lectures for the Sriniketan seminar. Over cups of tea, it was nice to catch up with Rita after a long time. She was also interested in agricultural unit of Visva Bharati.
The Chinese and Japanese departments are doing a brisk job at graduate level. Both the Chinese and Japanese embassies are keen to be in touch with these students, international student exchange programs are on, and the graduates are quite sought after for jobs chiefly as interpreters in software companies. Few manage to go up the management ladder to get into sales activities. Students from Visva Bharati of these two departments have done well by national standards, and few may get into high level research on Chinese and Japanese studies. The conditions of post graduate and research level activities of these two departments are not very well known to me. Indian Defense units of Army has some collaboration with Chinese department of Visva Bharati, obviously on the language front.
So, to sum up, it is still the Patha Bhavana with few iota of declining uniqueness in Visva Bharati. But, again, in slumber, as the whole university is in a pathetic slumber and at this point of time has become an institution of “no importance” to the nation called India.
So, there you are, dear ex students of Visva Bharati. I sincerely hope you will pardon my naivety.
On a personal front, Prof Gautam Bramhachari, faculty chemistry department Visva Bharati, has very recently been awarded Fellow of Royal College of Chemists, London. Congratulations to Prof Bramhachari, on this splendid achievement on behalf of all ex students of Visva Bharati. If I get an opportunity I would definitely interview him on his works, and also how he managed this achievement as a faculty of Visva Bharati University,naturally.