Union minister Jitendra Singh on Monday said Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had blocked the growth of higher education in the erstwhile state and halted the academic institutions to evolve at par with those in the rest of India. Singh said even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave highest priority to the state and the Centre went out of the way to approve new institutions of higher education, growth of such institutions got thwarted by the "vested interests" using the "bogey" of Article 370. The minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was addressing the inaugural session of the three-day international conference on applied biology and biotechnology at the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU).
In the past five years, Singh said, the state was given two All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), nearly eight centrally-funded medical colleges, including three of them in his parliamentary constituency of Udhampur. The minister said these institutions failed to pick up because of lack of faculty and lack of research module despite "liberal funding" from the Modi government,
According to Singh, for any university or institute of higher education to grow, the basic prerequisites include exclusive department or streams of study for research and high standards of research publications, which, in turn, depend upon eminent faculty members selected purely on the basis of merit.
However, the minister added, in the "garb" of Article 370, no eminent faculty was ready to come here because "instead of providing them incentives, they were being offered no incentives". He also took a dig at the votaries of Article 370 for "wrongly" citing the name of Maharaja Hari Singh, who signed the instrument of accession to merge Jammu and Kashmir into the Union of India in 1947, to support their argument.
The minister said it was Hari Singh who had brought Ram Nath Chopra from Kolkata and offered him the facility and incentive to start the drug research laboratory (DRL), which is now known as the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), Jammu, and is one of the important nationally-renowned institutions.
Much before Independence, he said, Hari Singh used to ensure best of the teaching faculty from outside for the then Prince of Wales College at Jammu. Jitendra Singh emphasised the need to go for the best faculty from any part of the country without any compromise. He suggested greater collaboration of the university with other eminent academic institutions in the region, which according to him, could help in value addition to the education standards.