Prof. Amartya Sen and Nalanda University

Prof. Amartya Sen is an illustrious son of India. He is a nobel prize winning economist, that India can claim to be her own because he is an Indian citizen. Prof. Sen was conferred with Bharat Ratna, highest civilian award of India. Prof. Sen was appointed chairman of Nalanda Mentor Group in 2007 and in 2012 he became first Chancellor of the University. Nalanda university project was a dream project of UPA government at the centre and Janata Dal – BJP government in the state of Bihar. Objective was to revive an ancient centre of higher learning that existed as Nalanda University from the 5th century to 1197 in and around present day Rajgeer in Bihar state. In Feb of 2015, Prof. Singh announced his decision to discontinue as chairman of Nalanda University citing government interference. Prof. Sen went on TV and gave news paper interview insinuating Prime Minister Modi personally interfered in not putting forward his name for the second term as chancellor.
  • barkha dutt ‪@BDUTT‬“If ‪@RashtrapatiBhvn showed support for me as Chancellor& then didn’t sign clear govt asked him not to: Amartya intvw”


  • Sagarika Ghose retweeted“Academic freedom is under threat in India: Amartya Sen” ‪ …
Prof. Sen has strong political views. He never shied away from his dislike of Narendra Modi for his inability to manage Gujarat riot of 2002. Prof. Sen, also went public with his opinion that Mr. Modi cannot be his prime minister. Under this circumstance, it may not be surprising, if present government lead by Mr. Modi does not want Prof. Sen to continue as chancellor of Nalanda university. Government, however, has made statement that there was no plan to displace Prof. Sen. 
If we look at state of Nalanda university under leadership of Prof. Sen, it does not appear to be a pretty picture. 


  • Prof. Sen was a politically connected man. He was made chancellor  because of his proximity to congress party, over and above his qualification. In India, chancellor and vice chancellor positions are usually political. Why Prof. Sen is complaining if a different political dispensation does not want to continue with him? However, Mr. Modi’s government has denied any plan to displace Prof. Sen. 
  • Prof. Sen was a non resident chancellor of the university. He would stay most of the time in the US. He is also close to eighty years old. Should a young university not need a younger person who can devote his complete energy to the organisation?
  • Prof. Sen is left of centre in his ideology. He advised UPA government to initiate food security program to alleviate hunger in India. Obviously, he cared for poor. Yet in a desperately poor state of India, a left leaning economist had no qualm drawing salary in US dollars amounting to 80000 dollars a year, tax free! Is this not contradictory to his philosophy?
  • Parliamentary committee had found evidence of nepotism in appointment of senior positions in the university. A vice chancellor was appointed, who was not even qualified for the position as per UGC regulation, yet she was drawing a salary of 5 lac per month. Vice chancellor was expected to reside in  the campus, but she operated from Nalanda university office in Delhi.
  • Vice chancellor, in turn, appointed a few senior level staff who happened to be her friends and not necessarily qualified for the positions.
  • It is understandable that Prof. Sen, coming from Harvard, would want autonomy in financial matters of the University. However, unlike Harvard, Nalanda university was running on government fund. To get financial autonomy, the university should have attracted external funds. The university mangement, even with illustrious Prof Sen, have not been able to attract any fund from abroad. 
  • An amount of Rs. 1000 crore was approved over a period of 12 years for the university. This made, annual budget of the university close to 80 – 90 crore per year. I came across the following twitter messages:
    •  “@visaraj: Number of students in Nalanda University is 15. Number of Faculty is -11. Amount spent – 2700+ Cr.”
    • @kanchanGupta:all for rupees 2700 cr! Sen’s Nalanda has 23 classes, 1200 sq ft, 15 Acs, 2 lecture halls!”
It is understandable that the University did not receive all of 2700 crores. Still 80 crore a year is a lot of money. But the University operates from a government convention centre and students and faculty stay in a government hotel.

Yet favourite journalists give him prime time coverage to tell his sad story, try to set him up to say PM Modi was directly responsible for his tenure not getting renewed. A person who got his position due to political connection, complains when government of the day does not want him in the post! How much more pathetic can it be?




Tags: Amartya Sen, Chancellor, Economics, Nalanda University, Narendra Modi, NDA Government, Noble Prize, UPA Government, Vice Chancellor

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