Delhi: South Asian University rushes to meet deadline for moving to new campus

The South Asian University (SAU) has been asked to move to its new campus in Maidan Garhi on June 1, according to the deadline set by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), The Indian Express has learnt. Sources said the university — currently situated in Chanakyapuri’s Akbar Bhawan—is gearing for the shift while racing against time to set up phone and internet connections, and hostels for students.

SAU was established through an agreement between South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to provide education to students from all eight countries and is governed by all of them. It, therefore, falls under the MEA.

On February 3, SAU acting president R K Mohanty issued a notification setting up a 14-member committee with himself as the chairman “to look after the shifting of the present campus”.

“The committee will meet as and when deemed necessary and take all required steps to complete the shifting of the present campus… latest by June 1, 2022,” it said.

On February 17, through another notification, Mohanty set up various committees to “meet the deadline” of shifting by June 1. The nine committees are responsible for tasks such as purchase of furniture and kitchen equipment; arrangement of security and housekeeping of campus; operation of guest house; operation of cafeteria; allotment of hostel, staff and faculty buildings; and shifting of student mess and canteen.

Sources said that some infrastructure is yet to be put in place, including phone and internet connections, and hostel facilities.

Asked if the plan to shift on June 1 was on track, an SAU official said, “Yes, the plan to shift the campus is very much on track. The university is all geared up for the shifting. All related arrangements are being made.”

“SAU has submitted the details of the estimated cost of planning and shifting the university… to the MEA in March 2022. Sanction of funds from MEA is awaited,” he said.  The Indian Express has learnt that SAU had asked for Rs 1.29 crore as funds, which are yet to be released.

When contacted, the MEA declined to comment. Sources said the funds had not been released so far as SAU was asked to furnish documents, tenders, etc, which they are yet to. When asked about this, an SAU official said, “This is an internal matter and we are working things out in a systematic manner with the MEA. The ministry has been very cooperative and supportive in the development of capital assets of the university, including the construction of the permanent campus.”

The official also said that “most infrastructural arrangements have been made”.

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“The university is trying to systematically iron out issues that are usually associated with physical shifting of large institutions such as ours. The student hostels are being constructed. Alternative arrangements are being made to house the students on the campus. We are leaving no stone unturned to make sure the convenience of students isn’t compromised while pursuing their programmes on the new campus,” he said.

He said the pandemic had “delayed the shifting process tremendously”, and that SAU was trying its best to meet the deadline. According to officials, the first set of five buildings – Faculty of Life Science and Earth Science (LSES), three blocks of Staff Housing and Club and Guest House – have been physically completed till date.

“Similarly, the utility building, Faculty of Law and Humanity and Faculty of Physics Chemistry and IT have been completed before lockdown in 2020,” he said, adding that many other buildings were in the process of being completed.

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