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Is Chhagan Bhujbal only interested in playing identity politics?

While Chhagan Bhujbal has successfully renamed University of Pune after social reformer Savitribai Phule, the pending approval for academic, administrative facilities at the University’s sub-centres has not received the same attention from the minister

Senior NCP leader and PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal has been actively involved to rename University of Pune (UoP) after social reformer Savitribai Phule, which was approved by the state cabinet on Monday. However, back at his home district Nashik, Bhujbal has been receiving criticism for not putting the same efforts to get the long pending approval from the government for the city’s UoP sub-centre. A minister from his hometown had a special piece of advice for Bhujbal, “Rather than playing identity politics, start paying attention towards real issues.”

A day after the cabinet’s approval to rename the university as Savitribai Phule Pune University, Bhujbal was at the Pune campus to celebrate their success with local NCP leaders. During the same time, another NCP leader and Higher and Technical Education Minister Rajesh Tope in Mumbai was meeting the Vice Chancellor of UoP, Dr W N Gade, who was requesting to get approvals for university’s sub-centres in Nashik and Ahmednagar. These sub-centres are still waiting for approval for facilities so that they don’t have to depend on Pune for day-to-day academic and administrative work.

All in a name
Criticising Bhujbal’s priorities, Nashik-based senior senate member of UoP, Dr Milind Wagh, said, “Despite being guardian minister of Nashik, Bhujbal is more interested in renaming the University’s name than fighting with the government to provide long pending approvals to Nashik and Ahmednagar’s sub-centres. These centres have received lands, but the state is least interested in giving approvals that will ultimately reduce the workload of the university. Bhujbal should focus on real issues, rather than playing identity politics.”

Speaking about the renaming of the university, Wagh added, “Identity politics is the easiest thing to do. Both Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule made enormous efforts to ensure that education reaches every strata of society. But is the government taking forward their work in the education sector, or is it just taking the easy way out by building statues?”

UoP Board of College and University department’s director, Dr VB Gaikwad, who was in the meeting with Gade and Tope, said, “The state is yet to give their approval to the sub centres. We have spoken to Tope on the issue and he assured us that the approval will come in the next 10 days.”

This is not the first time that the government has delayed approvals. It was only six months back that the sub-centres acquired 63-acre land in Nashik and 83-acre land in Ahmednagar to expand their sub-centres. However, the delay in approvals has halted the construction work on these sites. In the senate meeting held in March 2014, the UoP had sent their proposal to remind the state about the pending approvals. 

Statues over education

Last year, Chhagan Bhujbal founded the Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad and donated a full statue of Jyotiba Phule that he himself inaugurated. Now, after renaming UoP, he plans to donate another statue of Savitribai Phule. “We will soon donate a statue of Savitribai Phule to UoP, which will be inaugurated on her death anniversary, January 3,” announced Bhujbal at the UoP campus on Tuesday.

Mahatma Phule

Incidentally, the university has three statues of social reformers, and another two in the pipeline. The university administration is concerned how they will ensure the security of these statues. In the March senate meeting, a few members had even raised the issue, proposing restrictions in donating statues to the campus.

A senior official from the university, on the condition of anonymity, said, “UoP does not have any policy to ensure security of these statues. Therefore, until the policy is not in place, the varsity should not accept statues. However, since leaders use statues to pursue their political agenda, it becomes difficult.” UoP’s Registrar, Dr Narendra Kadu, refused to comment on the safety and security of statues.

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