Srinagar: The decision of the Jammu and Kashmir government to open 52 new colleges in the state is facing criticism with state political parties accusing the Governor Satya Pal Malik administration of being partisan, and starting instuitions mostly in areas with a sizeable Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) vote bank.
In September 2018, the state authorities had announced plan to set up 40 new colleges, however, the decision led to protests in areas which were not covered under the plan. On 1 March, the state’s highest decision making body, the State Administrative Council (SAC), sanctioned 12 more colleges in order to quell the protests.
Once launched, the number of colleges in the state will rise to 149.
It is estimated that for the construction of each college, a one-time cost of near Rs 15 crore will be granted while Rs 1 crore will be spent each year to pay for the salaries of 140 teachers and other staff. However, officials said that the government could be starting with lesser money initially and classes would be rolled out in phases.
The decision to open the new college, however, has not fared well with the areas which are not covered under the plan with political parties accusing the administration of leaving out areas not represented by BJP MLAs.
"The present dispensation of Governor Malik is serving the interests of the BJP," said Chaudhary Qamar Hussain, People’s Democratic Party leader, and former MLA from Rajouri,
Hussain said that while colleges have been opened at tehsil headquarters in the areas which are represented by BJP MLAs, the demand to set up a new college in Manjakote tehsil in Rajouri has not materialised yet.
He also said that although there is a requirement for “separate college for women in Rajouri, it has not been fulfilled" either.
Chaudhary Rashid Azam Inqalabi, Special Secretary, Higher Education Department, however, said that the government’s motive behind opening the new colleges was to increase access to education.
"We will try and create adequate facilities at the colleges. Initially, we will start the class work for Bachelor of Arts courses, and subsequently, add courses in the science stream,” he said.
However, local leaders claim that besides being partisan in the announcement of new colleges, the Malik administration has also been changing locations of already approved colleges.
Over six months after a college was announced for Chadoora town in central Kashmir district of Budgam, classes have not been started as yet. On the contrary, the town has been protesting against the “shifting” of the college from the main town to Wathoora area of Budgam district.
“The college was originally approved for Chadoora town, but it has been shifted to Wathoora. We have asked the government that either the limits of Chadoora Municipality should be extended to include Wathoora in the local body or the college should be set up on a portion of 90 kanal land in Chadoora which has been retrieved from encroachers,” said senior congress leader, Farooq Andrabi.
He said that they have “apprised the government that until the construction work on the college completes, it should run from a building of the horticulture department".
Meanwhile, in the Eidgah Assembly constituency, the plan to open a college was announced only after political leaders hit the streets.
Former National Conference (NC) MLA of Eidgah Assembly constituency, Mubarak Gul, said that it was only after the protests and following the memorandum that was submitted to the government that a college was approved in the constituency.
“We have held many sit-ins and even wrote to the Governor as well as the chief secretary that a college should be constructed in Eidgah. Initially, only 40 colleges had been sanctioned, however after our protests the government realised that our demand was genuine. And two new colleges including one for Eidgah were approved,” he said.
Gul is hopeful that work on the new college will initiate shortly after the laying of the foundation stone. “I have been informed that the government is framing a project report to construct the college which will come up on 65 kanals of state land,” he said.
The government is looking at starting classes in all the colleges before 2021, however, even as new colleges are being opened inadequate infrastructure in existing colleges remain a concern. However, Inquilabi assures that existing institutions will be upgraded as well.
“We will upgrade the infrastructure of the already existing colleges under the existing scheme for improvement of facilities,”he said.
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Updated Date: May 09, 2019 18:44:59 IST