Leader of opposition in Karnataka assembly, Siddaramaiah, urged the state government to withdraw its decision to grant land for a new private university at Devanahalli on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
A day after the Karnataka assembly passed the Chanakya University Bill by voice vote even as the opposition Congress staged a protest and walked out, Siddaramaiah, the Congress legislature party leader, alleged that the land had been granted at "throwaway price" to an institute backed by the RSS. He further charged that Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri had been "partial" in his conduct while passing the bill.
In a press meet held on Wednesday, Siddaramaiah opposed the government move saying, "The BJP government has hurriedly passed the Chanakya varsity bill by voice vote without giving us an opportunity to debate and discuss. The state cabinet, on April 28, 2021, decided to hand over 116 acres at Haraluru to CESS (Centre for Education and Social Studies). The notified land was acquired by KIADB (Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board) at the cost of Rs 1.5 crore per acre and also gave a compensation of Rs 175 crore to land losers (farmers), to establish Aerospace and Defence Park, Phase 2. But the same parcel of land has been given to CESS at Rs 50 crore. The current market price of the land is Rs 300-400 crore.” The Congress leader alleged that the BJP government gifted highly priced land to an RSS agency at a cheaper price.
The former chief minister claimed that all the members of CESS are from the RSS. "The RSS promotes the idea of Manu and want to re-establish varnashrama system in our society. CESS does not have any prior experience of managing educational institutions and also does not have any infrastructure to start a university. The government should clarify on what criteria has the land been allocated to them," said Siddaramaiah.
The private university bill, tabled by Higher Education Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan, was endorsed by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai saying there had been several instances when the government had granted land at concessional rates to industries and educational institutes as they contributed to the development of the state. "The government is ready to give permission to 10 such universities," said Bommai.
Kageri had said there was a need to encourage institutions that promote cultural values in an era where education is getting westernised.
The CESS is the sponsoring body of the proposed multi-disciplinary university that is set to be functional from the next academic year. Noted academic Prof M. K. Sridhar, who was a member of the National Education Policy 2020 drafting committee, is the president of CESS, which has alumni and faculty members from central universities like JNU, BU and NIMHANS on board.
Established in 2006, CESS states that it is committed to bringing about ‘Social Transformation through and with Education’ through research, policy advocacy and capacity building in the fields of education and India studies.
The CESS website states the institute has executed projects in collaboration with Azim Premji Foundation, government of Karnataka, Karnataka Knowledge Commission, RV Educational Consortium, Institute of Public Health and the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium. It is recognised as Research Centre in Management by Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Belagavi, Karnataka, and has entered into MoU with NAAC to work in the areas of data analytics, mentoring internal quality assurance cells and capacity building of colleges.
The CESS has entered into MoU with Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University, Gadag, and Tumkur University, Tumakuru, to jointly conduct research in rural development, capacity building of faculty and identify new programmes, undertake research projects, accredit the teachers and measure teaching, design and evaluate new courses in education, public health and Indic studies. The CESS is studying the education philosophy of Aurobindo and concept of Annadana in India. Besides, the centre is developing and theorising Indian economic model and Indian management thought.