Even as teachers and students of Bharathiar University are protesting against the Government Order (G.O.) allotting 130.33 acres of its land to Anna University of Technology, Coimbatore, the District Administration has said that the works on establishing the technical university will continue.
According to A. Shanmugasundaram, District Revenue Officer, though the land of Bharathiar University is in the name of the Registrar, it belongs to the State Government. “The name transfer is in process”. “The land was bought from the public by the Government. Since there was no other requirement in 1984, Bharathiar University was allotted nearly 1,000 acres, which is much more than the norms of the University Grants Commission. Now, we are allotting a part of the excess land to another State University.” he said.
As regards the compensation to land owners, he maintained that it was the discretion of the government to do so and reallocate the land. “The land has been handed over to Anna University and the work will continue”, he said.
The works had begun after the technical university was issued the “Enter Upon Permission” to start preliminary works at the allotted site.
Following this, teachers and students of the Bharathiar University had been protesting against the G.O. and demanding withdrawal of the same. What began with passing of resolutions, turned into a hunger strike by teacher associations and escalated to a road blockade by students. Students were planning to stage another demonstration after Pongal at Gandhipuram pressing the same demand.
The associations and students say that one university's land should not be “sliced” for setting up another. Referring to the three conditions laid out by a Syndicate resolution under which the land could be transferred to Anna University of Technology, they alleged that the G.O. was a violation.
Bharathiar University sources said that works of the technical university could not begin without the land being transferred to its name. The Registrar of Bharathiar University had written to the Education Secretary to amend the G.O. to include the three conditions – Government paying compensation to the original landowners, the technical university giving them jobs, and the approach road to be from Somayampalayam village.
Bharathiar University had also refuted the claim of the Government that the land was ‘vacant'. It said 53 acres of the total 130.33 acres were being used by the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB) under a 10-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) that got over in December 2011. The university had written to the IFGTB to vacate the premises.
According to N. Krishnakumar, Director of IFGTB, the 53-acre was being used as trial fields. “I have written to the Vice-Chancellor of Bharathiar University asking for time beyond December 2011 to bring the trials to a completion. The trials are being done with the help of funds from various organisations. Hence, they cannot be terminated. They have to be moved to an alternative location,” he said.
K. Karunakaran, Vice-Chancellor of Anna University of Technology, Coimbatore, said that the proposed buildings of the university would in no way hamper the operations and growth of Bharathiar University.
“At present, the university is operating from a rented premises for which the monthly rent is Rs. 14 lakh. With land acquisition being highly impossible and land costs becoming exorbitant, the Government has allotted the un-utilised land of Bharathiar University. The areas earlier identified at Veerapandi and Chinna Thadagam were declared unsuitable by the District Administration,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
Regarding compensation, employment to land owners and the MoU with IFGTB, Mr. Karunakaran said that university would address all these issues.
He has appealed to the teachers, students and public at large to extend support to the establishment of the new campus that would only aid in the development of education.