Save UVCE Campus at KR Circle!
Joint appeal by UVCE Alumni & Students , All India Democratic Students’ Organisation (AIDSO) &
All India Save Education Committee (AISEC)
The KR Circle campus of our beloved University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering(UVCE) is proposed to be closed down shortly! This may be shocking but true.
The tragic irony is that this year is the centenary year of the college – the fifth engineering college in pre-independent India, and first in the erstwhile Mysore State - set up in 1917 by the legendary Sir M. Visvesvaraya. Now, this campus with 100 years of history of producing some of the finest engineers during and after the British era, is proposed to be consigned to the dustbin of history, instead of further developing it into a Centre of Academic Excellence!
The official justification for this decision is to shift UVCE to Jnana Bharathi campus to give more space for growth as the current campus is ‘congested’ and also, to ensure that UVCE remains with the parent Bangalore University after its recent trifurcation into Bangalore University (BU), Bangalore Central University (BCU) and Bangalore North University (BNU).
Let us take now dissect these claims..
If the aim is to give more space for growth, it is certainly welcome but it is possible and even, appropriate to give more space without shifting the existing KR Circle campus. It can be done by building a new ‘UVCE centenary campus’ in Jnana Bharathi or any other location.
There are past precedents. In 2009, the iconic Indian Institute of Science (IISc) completed 100 years. At that time, to cater to a similar need for expansion, the then state government provided 1500 acres of land near Chitradurga – 225 km from the Bengaluru campus. So, IISc was not shifted to another campus but added another campus! Now, projects on solar power, climate research and sustainable technologies have started in the new campus and a great Talent Development Centre initiative has taken roots. Why not replicate this successful model in the case of UVCE?
Whether UVCE remains under Bangalore University or gets affiliated to Bangalore Central University, the existing KR Circle campus need not be shut down. Instead, both KR Circle campus and the new ‘UVCE centenary campus’ can be administered as a single entity. For instance, apart from IISc, even IIT Delhi runs two campuses! A better example: State University of New York (SUNY) – a public funded entity like UVCE - runs 64 campuses efficiently, even when their administrative office at Albany is 460 km away from their largest campus at Buffalo!
If UVCE is to be shifted to Jnana Bharathi Campus, is the necessary infrastructure ready? As of May 2017, the Higher Education Dept was still seeking an estimate of cost for the construction of the new UVCE campus at Jnana Bharathi! Then, when will this miracle really happen? Is it sensible to talk of shutting down the KR Circle campus before even the plan for the construction of a new campus – if it ever comes up – is finalised?
A big question that remains unanswered till date is: if UVCE is shifted to Jnana Bharathi campus, then, what will happen to the historic campus at KR Circle? KR Circle campus is a sprawling 15 acres of public land at the heart of Bangalore - an eyesore for real estate sharks. So, are we to believe that there are no vested interests in the decision making? Who is behind this ingenious idea of shifting this large body of 3500 students and academics? What is the real motive? The authorities are maintaining a stoic silence on this question.
Does the government realise the historical significance of UVCE? Take the example of Vidhana Soudha. When there was a space demand in the historic Vidhana Soudha, the state government built Vikasa Soudha and shifted some of the ministries and legislative offices! Vidhana Soudha itself was not shifted elsewhere. Because the current structure is not only more accessible but it has a historical value, it’s an outcome of the vision of Sri Kengal Hanumanthiah. Then, how is shifting UVCE - a brainchild of Sir MV - a sensible idea?
In March 2017, Rs. 25 crore was allotted for the renovation and upgrade of the UVCE KR Circle campus namely to build a new 10-floor Mechanical Engg block and a new 10-floor block to cater to Computer Science, Electrical and Electronics departments, to construct 3 more floors to the existing lecture hall complex, to build an open-air theatre and to refurbish the main building. Now, surprisingly, another govt order has been issued to come up with a new estimate of cost for shifting to Jnana Bharathi campus. We urge that the sanctioned amount of Rs. 25 crore should not be diverted towards shifting cost. Instead, it should be wholly utilized to improve the infrastructure facilities at the KR Circle campus as per the approved plan and a separate plan should be made for the new UVCE centenary campus.
Even the committees appointed by government previously, NR Shetty Committee and Rudraiah Committee as well as top bureaucrats with Education Dept in the past - have said a NO to closing down of the KR Circle campus or the shifting of UVCE. The SA Kori committee which recommended the shifting of UVCE, comprises of members with no direct association with UVCE. Then, how credible is their recommendation?
The UVCE campus is not just a building, it has acquired the status of a heritage site. It occupies a prominent place in the annals of education in our state. It stands like a towering structure at KR Circle, a unique educational hub with many other public-funded educational institutions with more than 20,000 students, hundreds of professors and academics. Therefore, UVCE is not only a heritage building but an important part of this ambience of higher learning! The govts talk of protecting the great culture and heritage of India, but sadly, we are compelled to protect such heritage sites from the govts!
No wonder then, many alumni, faculty and students of UVCE and other citizens are deeply worried that, under the pretext of shifting the UVCE campus, the real motive is to actually close down the 100 year old UVCE College. Let us not forget that, even to this day, UVCE is one of those few colleges holding a beacon of hope for hundreds of meritorious students from poor & middle class families.
If the government is committed to improve the quality of higher education and carries a true regard for the legacy of Sir MV, we urge the govt to retain and renovate the existing campus of UVCE and to establish another ‘UVCE Centenary Campus’ at Jnana Bharathi Campus or at an appropriate place.
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