BHAWANIPATNA: Kalahandi is yet to find a place in the higher education map of Odisha as it does not have a single university despite assurances of the State Government.
In the absence of adequate number of colleges and a university, the gross enrolment ratio of the district continues to be low at 8.7 per cent. According to a report on the level of education achieved by Indians as of 2011, released by the office of the Census Commissioner and Registrar-General of India last year, in Kalahandi, only 4,789 youths have completed their BA/BSc/BCom degrees while their population is around 1.2 lakh.
In the Education Policy-2016 which is being framed by the Higher Education Department, Kalahandi finds no mention. Instead, the department has proposed to upgrade five autonomous colleges in Jeypore, Balangir, Rourkela, Angul and Puri to universities.
Although the Task Force on Higher Education in 2009 had recommended for upgradation of Government Autonomous College of Bhawanipatna to an affiliated university for Kalahandi and Nuapada region, it has been ignored by the department.
On the other hand, the State Government had last year recommended for upgrading the college into a university under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD). “Unfortunately, due to lack of adequate number of lecturers and infrastructure facilities, the proposal was turned down by the MHRD. The State Government is largely responsible for this as no attention has been paid towards faculty recruitment in the college,” said Akshay Kumar Nanda, a retired principal of the college.
Apparently, the Government Autonomous College of Bhawanipatna is the first college in KBK region to get ‘Potential for Centre of Excellence’ recognition by the UGC.
“KBK region comprises 20 per cent of Odisha’s population but has only one Central University at Koraput. There is no State Government-run university for the affiliated colleges of the region,” said Gopabandhu Behera, a retired professor of Sambalpur University who is also the president of Sikhya Vikas Parishad of Kalahandi.
In 2008, Sambalpur University had proposed to set up a branch campus in Bhawanipatna and a UGC team had studied the proposal. However, no decision has been taken yet.
Meanwhile, students of the college and members of its alumni association have sent a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to look into its upgradation as university. On Tuesday, they staged a demonstration outside the collectorate. Housing and Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singh Deo and Digambar Patra, an associate professor of American University of Beirut who is also an alumni of the college, have written to the Chief Minister on the demand.