Was CAU a misplaced priority?
The issue of Central Agricultural University (CAU) has of late assumed unprecedented dimension both in the societal, political and media circles as well. Importantly a letter that appeared in these columns under the caption of ‘CAU: The missed opportunity’ (ST 29th June 2019) was also scripted by none other than the ex-bureaucrat, Mr H. Chinkhenthang who was incidentally also in charge of Agriculture Sector, Govt. of Meghalaya. He has unmistakably averred that when the Congress Party that was at the helm of power both in the Centre and in our State, the Central Govt. had proffered a very preferential hand-out to Meghalaya in establishing a CAU. This primacy was given to our State perhaps due to its peaceful aura and Shillong being the hub of academic pursuits. It goes without saying that the establishment of CAU could have gone a long way to enable tribal students for higher studies pertaining to agro-oriented researches within the State and open up avenues of employment for the local unemployed youth. Notwithstanding such overwhelming gestures of the Centre, our then State Govt. did not really move on top gear to seize that God-given opportunity but kept the offer on the back burner by advancing unaccommodating excuses which ultimately led to the loss of opportunity to set up CAU. Hence, the shift of the CAU headquarter to Imphal as the then Manipur Govt. could come forward with alacrity to offer the required land space for the establishment of this institute which stands tall now.
However, as per reliable sources and for the information of the above writer and the public at large, that was the ‘First offer’ by the then Central Govt. in the late eighties and early nineties
No doubt, the indigenous denizens of Meghalaya are nursing a hope that CAU shall still be founded herein and that hope came into reality with the ‘Second offer’ in 2008 from the then Central Govt. with the proposal to establish another Central Agricultural University in North East India with its headquarter at Barapani (Umiam), Meghalaya by redefining the jurisdiction of CAU, Imphal. Undoubtedly, the headquarters of the Indian Council of Agricultural complex for North East Region and other Central organizations like NESAC, BSI research centres in the vicinity came in handy to provide the required academic and research synergism and to help in establishing dynamic linkages with existing institutions. Being centrally located, the new CAU headquarter which would have the jurisdiction over the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim as proposed at the initial stages would have had easy accessibility from all these states under consideration while the CAU, Imphal will have the jurisdiction over the states of Manipur and Tripura with expansion to cover the state of Nagaland, which did not yet have a central university.
The Planning Commission of India in 2009 also conveyed in principle, the approval for setting up of a new Central Agricultural University at Shillong (Meghalaya) duly bifurcating the existing CAU, Imphal with well defined jurisdiction. Subsequently, an identified site which indicated a compact block of land at Kyrdemkulai with easy accessibility, desired topography, gentle terrain and with suitable environ-areas forming the outer boundary was acquired by the State Government of Meghalaya through proper land acquisition proceedings which was taken possession of by the State Department of Agriculture. Finally in 2014, and as mandated the 200 acres of GOI recommended land was handed over to the Central Govt. authority through its representative, the Vice Chancellor of CAU, Imphal for setting up the Central Agricultural University, Barapani (Umiam) which was also published in the State Gazette of Meghalaya with proper Memorandum of Transfer.
Interestingly, during the course of the aforesaid events, it was learned that the jurisdiction of the new CAU, Barapani (Umiam) will cover the states of Meghalaya and Nagaland while the revised jurisdiction of the present CAU Imphal will be over the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura. This reversal of equation of the jurisdiction of the proposed new CAU from the initial four states to just two states with only Meghalaya and the addition of the state of Nagaland under its jurisdiction gave a political twist of the change of events and who knows perhaps due to the separate handsome financial allocations by the Central government for the respective CAUs with campus headquarters at Imphal and Barapani (Umiam).
Nevertheless, Meghalaya should not be ideally self-satisfied with just the Agriculture College (established in 2015) presently under CAU, Imphal in the sprawling 200 acres of land at Kyrdemkulai, otherwise and perhaps CAU, Imphal has the unwieldy privilege of becoming the largest Agricultural University in the country with presently thirteen constituent colleges. In one of my letters which appeared in your daily – “How Meghalaya missed the CAU!” (ST 14th August 2018), I had stated therein that the loss of CAU has become a cry over spilt milk! In the present scenario, I may be wrong so also the above state ex-bureaucrat but there is a silver-lining at the end of the tunnel – when and only if the present state government under the dynamic leadership of the youthful and knowledgeable CM with the blessing of the present government at the Centre, pursues the matter in right earnest so as not to miss the “Third opportunity” for setting up the Central Agricultural University in Meghalaya. The CM has rightly stated (ST July 9, 2019) that the Bill has to be moved in Parliament under Entry 64 to facilitate establishment of CAU, Barapani (Umiam) or CAU, Umiam (Kyrdemkulai) as an Institution of National Importance. It is odd now to see that the Party which was in power in the State during the open-handed ‘offers’ of the then Central Govt. from the same party and which is now sitting in the opposition has ventured to assert that it wholeheartedly supports the establishment of CAU in Meghalaya. This is nothing short of shedding crocodile tears, for what was this party doing when it was at the helm and this is for all to see as things unfold themselves.
Hence I wish that the new Central Agricultural University with headquarter at Kyrdemkulai sees the ‘Light of Day’ for the benefit of not just the people of Meghalaya but for all those in this region. As for the faulty recruitment by CAU, Imphal (ST July 9, 2019), the RTI activist, as mentioned in the news report, merits to be tapped on the shoulders for shedding the information in the public domain and the affected agricultural graduates and post-graduates students too have correctly conveyed the matter to the State government through the Agriculture Minister as the Central Reservation policy in this case should be adhered to for the constitutional right of the STs, SCs, OBCs and other meritorious applicants.
Jerome K. Diengdoh,
Arbitrary action of CRPF
Through your esteemed newspaper I would like to highlight the unauthorized action taken by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the Fourth Furlong area of capital city by erecting barbed wire fencing on the PWD road along the boundary walls of their officers’ quarter complex for reasons best known to them. Such illegal action by the CRPF authority has narrowed road width considerably thereby causing immense hardship to pedestrians as well as motorists who use this stretch of PWD road. This road is one of the busiest roads of Shillong connecting NEIGRHIMS, B.K Bajoria School, BRO, BSF, Assam Rifles, NEEPCO and other institutions of New Shillong. Many Ambulances pass through this road round the clock at high speed overtaking normal traffic. Restriction of width of the road has thus posed grave danger to the life and limb of school children and motorists as well and there is every possibility of fatal accidents any time if the unauthorized barbed wire is not removed immediately. It can be seen from the official website of PWD, Meghalaya (http://megpwd.gov.in) that the main objective of the Department is to formulate, plan, design, construct, operate and maintain public infrastructure efficiently and effectively in order to protect public safety and enhance the economic activities of rural and urban habitations. It is evident from the facts narrated above that CRPF authority has encroached upon the domain of state PWD and put the life of general citizens to danger. I therefore, urge upon the concerned authority to look into the matter keeping in mind the safety and security of the general public.