Lamenting that no Indian university figures among the top 500 globally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the government intends to unshackle these institutions and provide Rs 10,000 crore to 20 varsities to ensure that they are counted among the best in the world.
Addressing a function on the centenary celebrations of the Patna University here, he said measures like grant of central status were "a thing of the past" and his government has taken "a step forward" towards making 10 private universities and 10 government one's world class.
"My government took an important step towards unshackling the IIMs, freeing them from the clutches of restrictions and regulations set by the government," Modi said.
"We intend to do the same for our universities and ensure that our centres of higher learning figure among the best 500 in the world," he said.
In his speech that lasted a little over 30 minutes, the Prime Minister stressed on the need for universities to give more emphasis on "learning and innovation" and give up old teaching methods which focused on "cramming students' minds with information".
The Prime Minister also replied in his characteristic style to a fervent plea by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who in his welcome address had urged Modi "with folded hands that central status be granted to Patna University".
"I would like to say something about a demand that was raised here and met with loud cheers by the young crowd attending this ceremony. Issues like grant of central status have become a thing of the past. We are taking a step forward," Modi said.
The universities will not be selected by the prime minister or a chief minister or any other political figure, he said, adding their potential will be assessed by a professional, third-party agency.
"I exhort Patna University to seize this opportunity," he said in the presence of a host of dignitaries, which included Kumar and his Deputy Sushil Kumar Modi.
'From the land of snake charmers, India now seen as global IT hub'
Hailing the role of young IT professionals in changing the global outlook towards India, Modi quipped "earlier we were seen as a land of snake charmers, exorcism and superstitions.”
"Long back, while on a visit to Taiwan, I told a friend that we, as a nation, have moved from snakes to the mouse," he said.
Modi said, "We are a nation of 800 million young people, 65 per cent of our population is below the age of 35 years. There is nothing that we cannot achieve with such a huge demographic advantage."
The PM began his speech on a humorous note, saying "the Chief Minister said in his speech that I was the first Prime Minister to visit this university. It seems my predecessors have left quite a few tasks for me".
He also paid rich tributes to the rich and glorious history of Bihar, saying "the stream of knowledge that flows through this state is as ancient as the river Ganges itself".
"The state has been devoting itself to the worship of Saraswati (Goddess of learning). But the time has come to propitiate Laxmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity) as well and make the state a prosperous one by 2022, when we celebrate 75 years of our Independence," he said
He also remarked "there is no state in the country where one does not find a Patna University alumnus among the top five bureaucrats. I have had the opportunity to work with many such bright officers".
After attending the PU function, the PM paid an unscheduled visit to the Bihar Museum, situated adjacent to the Patna High Court, which has been a pet project of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The chief minister accompanied Modi during the museum visit.
Modi to launch development projects worth Rs 3,031 cr
After attending the Patna University function, the prime minister will fly to Mokama, which is in Patna district about 100 km from the capital city. Modi will launch a number of development projects there.
The state BJP president has been hinting that a bonanza was on the cards, terming the prime minister's visit as a "Diwali gift" to the people of Bihar in general and Mokama in particular.
At Mokama, Modi will lay the foundation stone of four national
highways projects worth Rs 3,031 crore.
The four National Highway projects for which the foundation stone will be laid include Aunta -Simaria section and Bakhtiyarpur-Mokama section of NH-31.
In addition, foundation stone will also be laid for two-lane construction of Maheshkhunt- Saharsa- Purnea section of NH 107 and Biharsharif- Barbigha- Mokama section of NH 82.
Construction of four sewage treatment plants (STPs) and related works worth Rs 738.04 crore will also begin, an official statement said. The four sewerage projects include Sewage Treatment Plant at Beur, Sewerage System with Sewer Network at Beur, Sewage Treatment Plant at Karmalichak and Sewage Treatment Plant and Sewer Network at Saidpur. These projects together will create new Sewage Treatment Plant capacity of 120 MLD and upgrade the existing 20 MLD for Beur. This also includes sewer network of about 235 km in Beur and Saidpur zones.
In Patna, seven other sewerage projects are at various stages of implementation. After completion of these 11 projects, Patna will become a town having 100 per cent sewerage infrastructure and no sewage water will drain into River Ganga. Six projects regarding River Front Development, Ghat and Crematoria are under implementation at a cost of 377 crore rupees.
Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ashwini Chaubey and Upendra Kushwaha were among those present during the event.
This is the prime minister's first full-fledged official tour to the state since the BJP became a part of the ruling coalition in Bihar in July this year after Kumar-led JD(U) snapped its alliance with Lalu Prasad's RJD and the Congress.
In August, Modi along with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had made an aerial survey of the flood-hit districts of Bihar.
The prime minister had promised a "package" of Rs 1.25 lakh crore in 2015 for the state during the campaign for the assembly elections in which the BJP and the JD(U) were pitted against each other.
The two parties remained partners in Bihar for 17 years but the JD(U) severed ties in mid-2013 over the elevation of Modi as BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate.