With a delegation of Kerala ministers and MPs, Kerala Chief Minister Mr. Oommen Chandy met HRD Minister Smriti Irani in her office in Delhi on 8 January seeking her support for the AMU Centre in Malappuram which is not progressing as planned. According to a reliable source, she told them bluntly, “This centre and other AMU centres were established without any legal sanction, hence they all will be closed down.” She added, “How you start a centre like this?…What authority the VC has to take such an action. We are not going to give money.” She went on to say, “There was no need for the AMU centres. I am going to close them down. We will not give any grant for this purpose.” The Kerala CM told her, we have allocated 345 acres of precious land in Perinthalmanna taluk of Malappuram for this purpose on the understanding that a full-fledged AMU centre will function there. “Take it back!” the HRD minister thundered.

Smriti, Modi & Zameeruddin Shah

While this unpleasant discussion was on between the HRD Minister and Kerala CM-led delegation, the AMU Vice Chancellor Lt. Gen (retd) Zameeruddin Shah entered the room. Irani asked him bluntly: “Why have you come?” He politely replied, “Ma’am, I have come at the invitation of the Kerala Chief Minister.” She shot back in anger: “Who pays your salary? Kerala CM or the HRD Ministry? Go back and sit in your room!” The humiliated VC made a hasty retreat while a stunned CM and his delegation looked on in utter disbelief.

The HRD minister met the Kerala chief minister again at Trivandrum on 14 January. Before the second meeting, a BJP delegation had visited the AMU centre at Malappuram. During the second meeting, the HRD minister repeated what she had said in Delhi but she said, “We will not give you anything extra!” This meant that the minister and her government have no immediate plan to close down the AMU centres but will allow it to meet a natural death. She also bluntly refused to allow an AMU school to function at the centre.

AMU had decided in 2010 to open five off-campus centres, one each at Murshidabad, Malappuram, Kishanganj, Bhopal and Pune, which all were to be fully functional by 2020. Out of these, only the first three are partially functioning but without any school which would greatly add to their charm as students passing out from AMU schools have a 50 percent quota in AMU faculties and colleges. HRD Minister’s rejection of approving schools for these centres is designed to rob them of their attractiveness to the local people where these centre are established.

The current HRD minister is behaving as if the AMU VC took a unilateral decision to establish these centres. In fact, these centres were part of the Union government’s scheme for the educational uplift of the Muslim community in the wake of the alarming Sachar report of 2006. AMU’s academic and executive councils approved this scheme which was finally okayed in May 2010 by the President of India who is the Visitor of the university. Before their establishment, the Union government engaged the Educational Consultants India Ltd (EDCIL), a public sector company, which prepared the project report after which UGC released funds.

The Malappuram centre was established in 2010. Its projected growth for the year 2015 was 13,000 students and 13 faculties but even now it is offering only three courses, viz., MBA, B.Ed and LLB which are attended by only 400 students at present. The Murshidabad centre too is offering only these three courses while the Kishangarh centre is offering only B.Ed course.

In addition to offering free land for the Malappuram centre, Kerala government had also built the infrastructure for the campus while funds for the buildings were released by the UGC. The current condition of the Malappuram centre is that it has a very small number of students and is offering only a few courses which means that the centre would die its own natural death in a few years’ time as only a few hundred students would not justify the huge budget needed to run the centre which was a matter of prestige for Kerala and that’s why before the CM, MPs from Kerala too had met the HRD minister.

Back on 24 December, 2011, the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, while inaugurating the Malappuram Centre, had assured adequate funds for its future plans and development. In reply to a demand made by the Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in his presidential address at a function of the centre, Sibal had said, “Paise ki zaroorat hai to, hamaari taraf se koi kamee nahi hogi” (If money is needed, there will be no dearth of funds from our side).

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2016 on page no. 1