Tuesday, 11 October 2005

University of Hyderabad in a thick of controversy

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 31: The prestigious University of Hyderabad is once again in the thick of controversy. This time over the decision to allot 200 acres of its prime land to Care Foundation, a private institution which wants to build a superspeciality hospital and research centre on the campus.
The university has reportedly entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Care Foundation without the mandatory approval of the academic council or the executive council. University sources said vice-chancellor Seyed E Hasnain had kept both the councils in the dark over the proposal to allot the land to the Care Foundation.
He simply informed the executive council about the plan without naming the organisation (Care Foundation) to which the land would be given. The VC's decision to hand over 200 acres of land worth around Rs 1000 crore to a private body has raised many an eyebrow. "Does a research foundation require 200 acres of land? Will it not do with a couple of acres," is the general refrain in the university circles.
Moreover, neither the vice-chancellor nor the university has any right whatsoever to alienate the campus land without the prior approval of the State government. The land given to the University of Hyderabad is an "assigned land" which means the university can just enjoy the rights without selling it or leasing it out to a third party. The State government while making the land allocation on February 21, 1975 made it clear that the "allocation was conditional". If the university goes ahead with its proposal, it will be flouting the State government rules and the University Notification.
The University has already lost 700 acres of its total 2300 acres land to various institutions in the past five years. The previous Telugu Desam government alienated 400 acres of HCU land to controversial sports firm IMG Bharata and 34 acres to Reddy Labs. Recently, 13 acres of land was given to a games village for the World Military Games scheduled for next year. The IIIT also took away a major portion of the university land.
But unlike the present Care Foundation deal, the State government whenever it took away university land it did so through a memorandum of understanding i.e. allocation of alternative land to the university. The State government while making allocation of the land to the university had also specified that the campus should be used for education and technology only. If the university wants to alienate the land it should obtain prior permission from the State government. In the Care Foundation case, no such permission has been obtained.
"The vice-chancellor has taken a unilateral decision. He did not get the approval of the EC or the AC. What is the need to keep the information about this deal secret. Proper procedures were not followed. A centre for higher learning like this, in the name of advancement of its academic stature, can not give away land indiscriminately to other agencies which seek to make profit out of the precious University land," argues senior CPM leader DG Narasimha Rao, who has been fighting for the protection of HCU lands.
Land prices in the HCU area have skyrocketed in the recent past and an acre of land there now costs Rs 5 crore. This means the university authority had agreed to give away Rs 1000 crore worth land to a private foundation.
"If there is nothing wrong in the deal, why then it is being kept in secrecy? Why the authorities did not discuss the issue with the academic, non-academic or the student community. Why the State government was not taken into confidence? We demand that all the relevant documents and papers should be made public," observed S Sudharshan Rao, president of HCU Non-teaching Employees' Association.
Many in the academic circles wonder what has forced the vice-chancellor to propose 200 acres of prime land to Care Foundation, when the Central or the State governments are now making do with just a few acres of land for research institutions.
Only recently Hasnain told reporters that the university would have buildings staggered all around the campus to prevent land acquisitions by government. "Our new institutions will be spawned on the university land to enable us to keep our land with us," he had pointed out.

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