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Amartya Sen on Visva-Bharati's 'illegal occupants' of campus plots list

According to Vivsa-Bharati, the academic department, office, the girls' hostel, as well as the Vice Chancellor's official bungalow have made it to the list of plots allocated to private parties

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | December 24, 2020 | Updated 16:27 IST
Amartya Sen on Visva-Bharati's 'illegal occupants' of campus plots list

Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal has written to its state government alleging that dozens of university's plots have been wrongly allocated to private entities. The university situated at Shantiniketan said in writing that the team preparing the list of unauthorised occupants include Amartya Sen.

According to Vivsa-Bharati, the academic department, office, the girls' hostel, as well as the Vice Chancellor's official bungalow have made it to the list of plots allocated to private parties. The university attributes the transfer of land towards businesses like that of restaurants, schools, among others to the practise of wrong recordings in the government's record-of-right (RoR).  The original mass of land was procured by Rabindranath Tagore.

Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate and economist, has been accused of occupying 13 decimals of land, in addition to the 125 decimals of legally leased land given to his father by the university. Writing a reply to TOI, Sen said that he is aware from the report "that ViceChancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty of Visva-Bharati is busy arranging the 'eviction of unauthorised occupation of leased land in the campus' and that I have also been named in the list of occupants."

Ensuring the legal nature of his assets, Sen added that "the Visva-Bharati land on which our house is situated is on a long-term lease, which is nowhere near its expiry, but the vice-chancellor can always dream about evicting anyone he wants."

The estate office of Visva Bharati claims that these fallacious records were created back in the 80's and 90's, with most of these plots being located in an area inhabited by eminent people.

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Documents that Visva-Bharati sent through to the ministry of education (MoE) as well as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) offices revealed the extent to which the misallocation of university land was practised in the late 90's. Amartya Sen had written in 2006 to the then VC of the university to transfer the 99-year-old lease-hold land to his name. This was eventually done owing to a decision taken by the Executive Council, with the excess land never being returned to the university.

VC Bidyut Chakrabarty refused to comment on the matter saying, "I will not like to talk to the media on matters related to Visva-Bharati administration." Reportedly, the matter has been raised pertaining to the ownership of 77 plots of the university land.

A senior official at the state estate informed that "Rabindranath Tagore and later his son Rathindranath got eminent people like ICS officers, educationists and royal family members to reside in Santiniketan with the assurance they would be given land to build houses on the basis of 99 years' lease. In return, some of them contributed money to Visva-Bharati's development funds. However, many of the original lessees transferred their plots illegally after the passing away of Tagore and his son. Most of the present day heirs are non-resident Santiniketanis, occupying huge tracts of prime land on the campus and often indulging in businesses. They don't treat the land as part of university campus."

Prof Sen too, mentioned in his email that given his history with Shantiniketan, he "could comment on the big gap between Santiniketan culture and that of the VC, empowered as he is by the central government in Delhi, with its growing control over Bengal. I would prefer to use Indian laws as they exist. For mental strength, I may clutch the beautiful old picture of our home by Abanindranath Tagore, among others. The vice-chancellor would be spared the necessity of inventing completely imagined conversations with me, beginning impossibly with my introducing myself as Bharat-Ratna  something that no one has ever heard me do. The VC, of course, is an inventive artist as well."

A "tentative list of unauthorised occupants'' that was issued on December 16 indicated that many leaseholders had sold their leases to outsiders either by themselves, or through their families. This is touted to lead to many revelations as names of industrialists, educationists, NRIs, intellectuals, as well as local politicians are apparently involved.

According to university, the last decade has seen the removal of unauthorised occupations by an eminent singer and Padma Shri awardee; an internationally reputed artist who had been an EC member of Visva-Bharati; a former principal and executive council member of VB; an eminent Bengali industrialist; along with other members of the famous Sen family.

Visva-Bharati University is built over 1,132 acres of land, of which 77 acres was under contention. Having said that, the university has managed to acquire 22 acres of the land through legal battles.

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