Bengal’s historic university to celebrate bicentenary in cash-strapped mode

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The 1824-founded Sanskrit College and University — one of the oldest educational institutions not just in West Bengal but the whole of India — is set to celebrate its 200th year in a cash-strapped mode, thanks to the Trinamool Congress-BJP conflict that has affected most universities across the State.

The revered College Street-based institution, which boasts of having had educationist and social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar as a student as well as a teacher, turns 200 on February 25, when events will begin to mark the occasion.

“Within our limited resources, we are going to hold year-long bicentenary celebrations, in both College Street as well as Nabadwip campus, starting February 25. The Honourable Chancellor Sir (the State Governor) will inaugurate the programme,” Raj Kumar Kothari, Vice-Chancellor of the State government-run university, told The Hindu.

The university, according to Prof. Kothari, had asked for ₹6.65 crore from the State government some months ago for the bicentenary celebrations and for infrastructure development but has received no response so far.

“The financial condition is so bad that we are unable to pay salaries to the security staff. We are seeking donations. Even two water purifiers that we needed were recently donated by the Lions Club. To meet the expenses of the bicentenary celebrations too, our staff is making voluntary contributions. We are also seeking funds from our alumni,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

The State government and the Governor of West Bengal have been at loggerheads over a year now regarding the appointment of Vice-Chancellors at various universities, with the State government extending the tenures of incumbent V-Cs by trying to bypass the Governor, and the Governor turning down such extensions and appointing his own candidates as Vice-Chancellors, who in turn now hardly receive support from the State government. The higher education system in West Bengal is a direct victim of this confrontation.

“The Grade 1 Heritage Building that houses the university in Kolkata has not had any repairs done in the recent past. The celebrations themselves are marred by the absence of State and Central funds as on today, in stark contrast to the bicentenary celebrations of Presidency College right across the road, just four years ago,” a senior teacher of the Sanskrit College and University told The Hindu, asking not to be named.

But many teachers and students are still deriving pride from the fact that their institution is turning 200. “Each morning I love walking into the magnificent hall of our university. Between the armchair that former principal Surendranath Dasgupta used, to the memorial plaque for Michael Madhusudan (whose bicentenary this year is) — the space makes one relive Bengal’s history,” said Samata Biswas, who teaches English at the university and whose department, as part of the celebrations, will stage an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Vidyasagar’s Bharantibilas besides translating a two-volume history of the institution into English.



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