Manoj R Nair / DNA
Mumbai: A two-year-long search for land to set up a Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) centre in Maharashtra has got longer.
During the annual budget of 2009, the central government announced plans to set up five AMU centres in as many states.
A couple of months ago, the Murshidabad centre in West Bengal asked students to apply for courses there. Another campus at Malappuram in Kerala is expected to start functioning soon. But there are few hopes that the Maharashtra centre will be set up soon.
The main hurdle in the plans, government officials say, is the unavailability of a large plot of land to set up an educational campus. Last week, the state came close to identifying land for the project. Incidentally, the man who located the land was Yashwant Sonawane, the additional district collector who was killed by the oil adulteration mafia in Manmad last Tuesday.
As reported by DNA earlier, state minorities affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan had asked all the district collectors to look for land to set up the AMU centre. Based on information received from the district collector, the minorities affairs ministry was planning to write to the state revenue department to give the land identified for the project.
The meeting of district collectors took place on January 24, just a day before Sonawane was killed. Though the state has 35 districts, there were representatives from just 20 districts. Among them, Sonawane was the only one to have located land for the centre. His report said that there was 300 acres of land at Rampura village, a few kilometres outside Malegaon in Nashik district that could be acquired for the project.
Malegaon would have been ideal for the project as it is one of the few towns in the state where the population largely comprises minorities. Also, it is one of the most backward urban areas in state as far as educational and medical facilities are concerned.
But the state minorities affairs ministry does not want to set up a centre in Malegaon. State minorities affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan said, “We think that the AMU centre should come up near a large city. So we have asked the district collectors to look again for land near a big city.”
According to Khan, the campus should be located around Navi Mumbai, Pune or Nagpur.
But community groups are angry with the delay. MA Khalid, a resident of Dongri who filed several applications under the Right to Information Act to find out the progress in setting up the centre said, “While the minorities minister has told the community that he is in the process of identifying land for the centre, my RTI applications have shown that the state cabinet has no such proposal. By making false promises, the government is misleading the community,’ he said.
According to AMU officials, the central government has sanctioned Rs25 crores for the centres in Kerala and West Bengal. A Maharashtra campus, meanwhile, is still years away.