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Eleven Central Universities declared as 'non-performing', to be audited
India has 46 universities which come directly under the purview of the Central Human Resources ministry, and are clubbed as Central Universities. They occupy a certain pride of place in the academic world.

Spread out all over the country, some of them being – Nalanda, JNU, Vishwa Bharti, Jamia Milia, BHU, Delhi University, Allahabad University, Hyderabad University and Aligarh Muslim University.

Recently, the Human Resources ministry has itself declared 11 of these Central Universities as 'non-performing'. Of course, the ministry needs to be congratulated for its forthright candidness, which is rare for any government agency. The University Grants Commission has been asked to set the criteria for the audit, to assess whether the academic environment nurtures scholarship, research activities and research output at these non-performing institutions.

What is very surprising is that two universities with immaculate pedigrees, like Allahabad University and Aligarh Muslim University seem to have taken a steep dip. As a proud alumnus of Allahabad University and having seen its heydays, I am particularly concerned. Most of our family members have studied at Aligarh or Allahabad.

During my days at Allahabad, we revered our teachers and held them in awe, for they were nationally known names to reckon with. The teachers too nurtured one to one relationships with the students. Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan ji, famed Hindi poet was a professor of English Literature. In the evenings, he would often stroll down to our hostel and regale us by reciting his piece de resistance, 'Madhushala'. Famed Urdu poet, 'Firaq' Gorakhpuri was also a professor of English Literature, who would earn our 'wah, wahs' for his Urdu shayari! Our Maths professor, Dr. Gorakh Prasad wrote one of the first illustrated astronomical tomes in Hindi, on the Solar System – 'Saurya Parivar'!

Our university produced the maximum Indian Civil Service selections and later for the Indian Administrative services. The campus had a very healthy debating tradition, but we never witnessed hooliganism. Both the university and the city had luminaries like poetess Mahadevi Varma, Sumitra Nandan Pant, freedom fighters and judges who would often visit the campus. This gave us a very urbane exposure to cultural and political life.

Anand Bhavan, home of the Nehru family was across the road from my hostel, Holland Hall. Often, Pandit Nehru's sister, Mrs. Vijay Lakshmi Pandit would wave to us from the lawns and serve us refreshments. Once she accompanied Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of American President Franklin. D. Roosevelt to our campus. Pandit Nehru, when in town would often informally chat with the students. Our campus life was rich in extracurricular activities. Mrs. Teji Bachchan was very active with our drama group. She herself was a very accomplished stage artist, particularly as Lady Macbeth.

The overall environment on the campus nurtured a culture of an open mind and free exchange of ideas. For research, this is a prerequisite for producing world class respected research papers. This is a hallmark for rating universities and other academic institutions worldwide. Indoctrinated minds do not bring out research which can be taken seriously. It is to be hoped that the follow up of the audits of the 'non-performing' universities, will produce the intended results.

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