A statue of Ambedkar is the only indication that the university is named after him

Indian Express
4th August 2000

LUCKNOW, AUGUST 3: Annual budget: Rs 3 crore. Total strength of teaching and non-teaching staff: Nearly 85. Number of students: 175. Students who have passed out of the university so far: Not more than 20.

This is a Central university, the third in Uttar Pradesh and one of the total 15 all over the country. The foundation of the Dr Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar University was laid by late Rajiv Gandhi on the outskirts of Lucknow on April 14, 1989 ``to honour feelings of the citizens of the state for Babasaheb''. Eleven years and more than Rs 20 crore later, the university is existing just for the sake of formality.

Situated on a sprawling 250-acre plot off the Lucknow-Rae Bareli highway, the university has no approach roads, the power supply is erratic and the local administration hasn't been able to provide sewerage and water supply. So far, only an administrative block and a hostel has been built. A statue of Dr Ambedkar within the premises is the only indication that this is the university named after him as there are no boards and entry gates.

Seven courses offer a post-graduate degree here and each course at present has a strength of nearly 20 students. ``I believe that this university will take at least 20 to 30 more years to come into proper shape,'' commented one of total 60 non-teaching staff.

At present, four faculties are functional. They are Ambedkar Studies, Information Science and Technology, Environment Sciences and Centre for Vocational Studies.

But Vice-Chancellor D R Gadekar is undeterred. ``Universities take several years to build and I want to see this university at international level,'' says Gadekar, who is the first VC of the university appointed in 1996.

When the foundation was laid in 1989 by Rajiv Gandhi, it was said that this would be a state university and former lieutenant governor of Pondicherry, T PTiwari, was entrusted with the job of setting the nature and the scope of the university. He consulted experts and submitted his report in 1992 pointing out that this should be an engineering institute.

But several representations were made to the government that any institute in the name of Dr Ambedkar should cater to maximum number of students and should not be the place for a professional course. R D Sonker was later entrusted with the job and he submitted the project report suggesting that the university should at least have 16 faculties with 40 to 50 departments.

Such a huge infrastructure meant an expenditure of at least Rs 100 crore which the cash-starved UP government could not bear and it refused to fund the varsity. It wrote to the Centre that as the state government was unable to bear the cost of the proposed university, it should be declared a Central university. After serious efforts, a Bill for declaring it a Central university was tabled in the Parliament and finally the government issued the notification giving it the status of a Central university on January 31, 1996.

Dr Gadekar, who was teaching Geology in the Baroda University, was informed by the office of the then President that he had been named the V-C for this Central university. ``I accepted the challenge and assumed command on February 22, 1996. It was like a mission for me as when I saw the site of the university, it was deserted and only a boundary wall could be raised by the state government in seven years after the foundation,'' Gadekar told The Indian Express.

The only ray of hope for the university was seen during Mayawati's tenure as Chief Minister when she, at a function, announced in the presence of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpyee that the state government would give a grant of Rs 2.5 crore to the varsity and Rs 21 lakh for creation of an Ambedkar Chair on the condition that the Centre would also release the matching grant.

``The Centre has issued the matching grant but so far we have yet to receive promised 2.71 crore from the state government. I have written several letters and met officials since 1998 but so far no money has been received,'' lamented the V-C.

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