SKAUST bypasses govt orders, shifts agri faculty to Wadura

Moazum Mohammad
Srinagar: Keeping aside the government recommendations the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology has shifted the faculty of agriculture from Shalimar to Wadura campus in Sopore while relocating the horticulture to Shalimar.
Three months ago, Minister of Higher Education, Mohammad Akbar Lone in an official communiqué to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had written that “vested interest” got the decision of university council modified. The Minister had pointed out that the shortage of land at the Shalimar campus would not be conducive for the horticulture and the decision to locate the faculty at Wadura is most “appropriate”.
“Reportedly, there are only 32 hectares of land at Shalimar against the requirement of 50 hectares for horticulture. Whereas there is approximately 100 hectares of land at Wadoora and sufficient infrastructure to host faculties of horticulture and forestry,” read the letter, a copy of which is with Kashmir Reader.
The Principal Secretary to CM referred it to commissioner to government agriculture department for action under the laid down framework and considered the recommendations as “self explanatory”.
However, Vice Chancellor SKUAST, Tej Partap Singh said that university is not bound to follow government’s recommendation. “We aren’t bound to Higher Education Minister and the government letters are just advises. University council is the highest decision making body and the decision of shifting the agriculture faculty has been taken by it. Those government letters and orders are put together and then a collective decision is taken by the council,” Singh told Kashmir Reader.
He said there is insufficient land at Shalimar campus for faculty of agriculture and the government assured them to notify a village for the extension. “That couldn’t happen as it could have destabilized the entire village. A few people might have issues with the shifting. But we have to see the public interest,” he said.
Singh added the council has passed the decision of shifting the faculty in 2010 but due to the lack of infrastructure the decision couldn’t be implemented.
Interestingly this year no postgraduate student got enrolled in major streams of agriculture faculty including genetics and plant breeding and agronomy at Shalimar campus due to the controversial decision. Earlier, the VC had proposed shifting the faculty of forestry from Ganderbal to Wadura. But the government had red flagged the move after stiff opposition by the teachers and students
In 2011, the pro-chancellor of the varsity Omar Abdullah had stated that the consolidation of faculties had an element of “political sensitivity”.
“The pro-chancellor said the university should prepare a comprehensive paper about the consolidation and its impact on issues like staff movement, infrastructure development. It should be submitted to state agriculture production department after which the government will examine the proposal and take a decision considering the pros and cons,” the order said.