Rajya Sabha discusses Nalanda University bill

The bill for re-establishing the historic Nalanda University in Bihar was taken up for discussion by the Rajya Sabha Saturday.

The bill, which was introduced in the house last week, was taken up for discussion as the house conducted its special sitting Saturday.

The Nalanda University Bill, 2010, will establish a central university in Nalanda district of Bihar, in the likeness of the ancient university which was founded there in 5th century AD and became a renowned centre of learning for students from across South Asia.

The discourse proceeded without a single disturbance or protest as members spoke of the glory of the ancient Nalanda University and the vision for re-establishing the institution.

‘The debate is of such high standard that I am forgetting to see my watch,’ Deputy Chairman K. Rehman Khan said as four consecutive speakers ran out of their prescribed time without the chair ringing a warning bell.

Introducing the bill, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said it is being brought to implement the decisions arrived at the second and fourth East Asia summits.

‘The passage of the bill will pave the way for setting up an international institution for pursuit of intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies,’ Kaur said.

The minister also informed the house that the Singapore government has committed to give assistance of $5 million for the purpose.

Initiating the debate, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Bal Apte said the university ‘will be a platform for India and the whole of South Asia to transfer our rich cultural heritage to the world’.

The member, however, objected to the introduction of the ill under the external affairs ministry rather than the human resource development ministry.

Participating in the debate, senior Congress member Karan Singh clarified that the bill was being introduced by the external affairs ministry as it was to be set up as an international university.

Singh also requested the government to pay special attention to the architecture of the university and ‘not with PWD (public works department) architecture’, a demand which was backed by many other members.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) member Pramod Kureel infact suggested an international design competition for deciding on the architecture.

Communist Party of India-Marxist member Sitaram Yechury said that the re-establishment of the university must not be to ‘settle scores of the past but to build a glorious future’.

‘Nalanda was not only a temple of knowledge but also a temple of religious tolerance which we need to learn today,’ Yechury said.

Janta Dal-United member N.K. Singh, who is a member of the mentor group led by economist Amartya Sen looking into setting up of the university, said the university will be an ‘icon of Asian renaissance’.

The University of Nalanda is proposed to be established under the aegis of the East Asia Summit (EAS), as a regional initiative. The central government constituted a Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) in 2007, under the chairmanship of Amartya Sen to examine the framework of international cooperation, and proposed a structure of partnership to govern the establishment of this university as an international centre of education.

The NMG also has representatives from Singapore, China, Japan and Thailand.

The university, which will be re-built in the Nalanda district of Bihar, will have Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions, Historical Studies, International Relations & Peace Studies, Business Management in relation to Public Policy and Development Studies, Languages and Literature; and Ecology and Environmental Studies.

The Rajya Sabha is holding a special sitting Saturday to take up the legislative business and private member’s business Saturday as the coming week has two holidays, for Onam Monday and Raksha Bandhan Tuesday.