2016 wish for Nalanda heritage tag

Rajgir, Feb. 5: If all goes according to plan, the excavated ruins of the ancient Nalanda University will get World Heritage Site status by 2016 when the first batch of students of the upcoming institution is scheduled to graduate.

"The Union ministry of culture has agreed to support my appeal and send a separate proposal for making it (the Nalanda ruins) a World Heritage Site," chief minister Nitish Kumar told The Telegraph after emerging from a meeting of the Nalanda University monitoring committee at Rajgir.

Nitish said the entire Nalanda University governing board backed his proposal for World Heritage Site status. Yesterday, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, the chairman of the governing board and chancellor of the university, had said he would lobby to ensure that the ancient seat of learning gets the Unesco heritage tag.

Vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal said the board had proposed to achieve the status by 2016. "The courses in the new Nalanda University will begin in 2014 and our first batch will be out by 2016. By that time we want the ancient Nalanda University to be declared a World Heritage Site," Sabharwal said.

The university is coming up on a 446-acre plot at Rajgir, located around 90km southeast of Patna and around 10km from the ancient ruins.

When land for the mega-project was being taken from farmers in 2007, the Nitish government had to face stiff resistance. The local residents had argued that the university would have no bearing on their lives and they would have preferred a factory which would have made an economic impact on the region.

Today's meeting, held at the imposing International Convention Centre in Rajgir, appears to have taken a stride in quelling the anger ' and agony ' of the locals. Nitish said the upcoming university will work for the economic development of around 200 villages in the adjoining areas which were helped by the ancient institution. "The KP Jaiswal Research Institute in Patna has been given the task of identifying the 200 villages which the old university used to help," he said.

Nobel laureate Sen said yesterday's meeting in Patna was about what the board could do about the new university. "Today's meeting was about what the state and Union governments can do. We discussed new infrastructure to be built around this new university ' roads, hotels, tourist facilities, railways etc," he said.

The monitoring committee is headed by deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who undertook an elaborate visit of the ancient ruins. "I have been hearing about this ancient university for a long time. But this is my first visit and I am impressed. This site should have been in the World Heritage Site list. The Centre should recommend it," he said. "The new university has quite a reputation to live up to," he added.