Monday, May 9, 2011

Goa University, a Voyage of Quarter Century - I

Goa University, a Voyage of Quarter Century - I

By Nandkumar Kamat

ON June 30, the only university in Goa, the citadel of higher education would complete a quarter century of its foundation. Economy, technology, society, politics have undergone profound changes in these past 25 years. When the Goa University was founded the population was less than a million and economy was one tenth of its’ size today.
The Goa University was founded during Union territorial administration. From August 1984 to November 1987, the lieutenant governor of Goa, an erudite personality late Dr Gopal Singh steered the affairs as an influential and proactive ‘visitor’ of the university. The architects and engineers appointed by him left behind a mess in the present campus being unfamiliar with terrain and climate. Buildings were turned into space wasting, leaking, waterlogged concrete sculptures. Unnecessary cutting and filling was done to inflate the bills. Road alignments were changed for wrong reasons.
Architect of GU
The real architect of the Goa University was the first and undisputedly the most popular CM of Goa, Dayanand Bandodkar. He appointed the Govardhandas Parekh Committee which suggested the foundation of nucleus of future Goa University - the centre of post graduate education and research or CPIR. University of Bombay and Maharashtra government made an exception to clear CPIR, the first post graduate campus of any state university in India outside its’ original jurisdiction.
June 1965 was a historic month for Goa. The door of higher education in several disciplines was thrown open. Its’ first director was an eminent historian - Dr Pandurang Pissurlenkar. He later donated his precious book collection to CPIR. The Goa government under the CM, Ms Shashikala Kakodkar was keen to establish the university and drafted the first bill in 1974. The present location of Kundaim industrial estate was the choice for Goa University’s campus. After the draft bill was sent for Centre’s approval, the intellectual circles in Goa began a heated debate on the nature of the university. There were two sets of opinions. Some people favoured a wholly residential university. Some people favoured a central university. But majority was in favour of a state university.
A Long Struggle
After declaration of emergency in June 1975, there was slow progress on the bill. Goa’s political scenario was changing perceptibly. The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party won the assembly elections in 1977. The hopes for Goa University were raised. We as college students were then agitating against delayed results by the Bombay University. Our problems were further compounded by a sudden hike in tuition fees. From July 1977, students’ agitation against the fee hike occupied the attention of the government. At the same time the traditional fishermen - ramponkars had also come on the streets with their long-pending demands. Opposition led by late Anant Narsimha Naik, Dr Jack de Sequeira and firebrand new MLAs like Madhav Bir and Ferdino Rebello had made the political scene active inside and outside the assembly. The government kept aside the Goa University Bill.
From December 1978 to January 1979 it faced a massive agitation by the students demanding concession in passenger bus fares. The MGP government collapsed in April 1979. After a brief presidential rule, assembly elections followed in January 1980 and the Congress party (U) captured power. Immediately student leaders began demanding a separate Goa University. The first decision of the government was to select a good location since there was opposition to Kundaim site. The government appointed the director of National Institute of Oceanography, Dr S Z Quasim as chairman of the committee to recommend a suitable site. The Quasim committee surveyed many locations and finally in 1982 recommended the present Bambolim-Taleigao plateau.
In the meantime, Goa’s new parliamentarian from South Goa, Mr Eduardo Faleiro who was sympathetic to demands of student unions raised the issue in Lok Sabha and got an assurance that the central government would clear the Goa University Bill. The then secretary of education, Mr Bhat and the Education Minister, Mr Harish Zantye then expedited the bill which was modelled after Osmania University Bill. The bill was tabled in March 1984 session of Goa assembly. Some of us as student leaders had gathered in the lobby to hear the debate. But the MLAs had not studied the bill and it was passed in a record time. The bill was then sent for assent to the President of India. When the former chairman of National Minority Commission, Dr Gopal Singh was appointed as lieutenant governor in August 1984, his first job was to get the presidential assent. He succeeded in November 1984. The way was clear for establishment of Goa University.
Dr Singh then took complete charge of the challenging transitional period-converting CPIR into Goa University. He appointed the ex Vice chancellor of Mangalore University professor B Sheik Ali, an Oxford university educated historian as the first vice chancellor of the Goa University. The state government deputed Dr S K Gandhe to take charge as first registrar. Dr Gopal Singh appointed a consultant to prepare a master plan for the university’s physical, academic and financial infrastructure development. The report came to be known later as Suri Committee Report. The Ali-Gandhe team worked in unison for more than five years and had to face numerous hurdles, controversies and agitations. The government transfererred CPIR to the newly-built, vacant premises of the Goa Medical College, at Bambolim. The transfer was completed by May 1985.
The Transitional Period
The first VC of Goa University operated from a small room in government circuit house in Panaji. Professor Sheik Ali as the first vice chancellor steered the university well through a difficult transitional period. He seldom lost his temper. He talked about the university’s academic policy and building a healthy intellectual ecology in the new campus. He took the initiative despite limited manpower and space to organise the golden jubilee session of Indian History congress in 1987. As a VC, he was a fountainhead of brilliant ideas and treated everyone with love and respect. It was the idea of Dr Gandhe to push ahead with a post-graduate computer applications course. Very few universities in India were then offering computer education. The tremendous popularity and progress made by Goa University’s computer science and technology department is a testimony to Dr Gandhe’s vision. Dr Gandhe got well known sportswoman Dr Susan desouza as director of sports and she proved herself when Goa University won the All India inter-university football championship. I still remember the inaugural function of Goa University on a rainy day on June 30, 1985. I was sitting with my friend Dr Vijayendra Kamat, who was then toying with an idea to do post doctorate work in Japan where his research in synthetic organic chemistry was much valued. “This is our university, there would be lots of problems but we must make it strong”, I told him. But we did not know that the initial gains would be wasted in future (to be continued).

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