Pradeep Pattanayak

Did the BJD-led government upgrade two colleges into universities with an eye to reap political dividends in the coming general elections? The intellectuals and educationists think so.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik first upgraded Vikram Deb (Autonomous) College in Koraput’s Jeypore into a University. Then Dharani Dhara (Autonomous) College in Keonjhar was upgraded. The people of these two districts have welcomed the government’s decision. But at the same time, they are sceptical about the smooth functioning of these two Universities as they have been struggling with several perennial problems. 

In Dharani Dhara University, 30 posts of lecturers have been lying vacant for a long time now. The least said about the library and laboratory the better. The picture of Vikram Deb University is no better either. 

Even the students of these two recently upgraded Universities complained about their problems. 

“Almost all the departments of the Vikram Deb College (now upgraded into University) are devoid of permanent staff. The vacant posts should have been filled first. This apart, we don’t have a canteen here. A computer lab is also on our wish list. As we don’t have a computer lab here, we have to go to Bhubaneswar for competitive exams,” rued a student of Vikram Deb College. 

Enumerating the problems at DD College (now upgraded into University), a student said, “Our College has been upgraded into a university. Yet we have problems. Permanent teaching and non-teaching staff posts are lying vacant. The college also lacks infrastructure.”

On the other hand, the government’s announcements are being seen as part of the political strategy for the 2024 general elections. 

The second campuses of Utkal University and Rama Devi Women’s University are yet to be operational fully. Similarly, Khallikote College was upgraded into Khallikote Cluster University. But later, due to problems relating to administration, the university became unitary as Khallikote University. 

If colleges are upgraded into universities without improving the infrastructure, they will face problems in receiving grants, observed some intellectuals. 

“Before upgrading colleges into Universities, infrastructure should be developed and a conducive environment should be created. The recent changes have been hurriedly done to take political mileage,” said Binayak Rath, an educationist. 

“Besides imparting education, a university also provides facilities for research. For this, basic infrastructure is required. Teachers are required. The Chief Minister took these steps to win people’s hearts,” observed Amiya Mohanty, an educationist. 

Odisha Higher Education Minister Rohit Pujari said, “The two universities will go a long way in empowering the students in the two tribal-dominated districts.”