What does losing the opportunity to hold the 105th edition of Indian Science Congress (ISC) imply for Osmania University, which was to host it from January 3 to 7 and for the Telangana State?

Till now, the State has been basking in the afterglow of holding Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) and World Telugu Conference successfully. The celebrations are to be short-lived as for the first time in history of the ISC, its venue has been shifted hardly a fortnight before the mega event.

The faculty and students of Osmania University believe that whatever good name the state has earned with the two events has been lost irretrievably. The state’s image, as a consequence, stands small, the Osmania University much smaller.

The University, during the last three years has managed to shed its image of being the nerve-centre for unrest and unruly happenings what with police and students clashing on the campus almost every other day, particularly when the Telangana movement was at a crescendo.

The latest development could not have come at a worse time since it has a jarring effect on the scientific and student community. The University has obtained A + NAC accreditation and 23rd rank among top 100 universities from the MHRD the university.

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The OU has also applied for funds under the Prime Minister programme of developing 10 State and an equal number of private universities into world-class institutions for which Narendra Modi intends to spend up to Rs 10,000 crore spread over a period of five years.

There is an apprehension that after citing of likely disturbances on the campus of the OU as reason for shifting of the venue, the careers of its students are at stake since the image of the university has taken such a beating that they may not be preferred in jobs and higher education in other areas, which will be a throwback to the notoriety it had in the 1970s.

“The postponement of the ISC has sullied the image of the university. It has lost its reputation not only in India but also outside since several Nobel and Bhatnagar laureates were to attend the event apart from other senior scientists,” OUTA president Prof B Satyanarayana says.

The academia fears that this could have serious future ramifications in that funding of projects in the pipeline could be adversely impacted. Apart from UGC, the Union Ministry of Science and Technology might think twice in supporting OU-inspired projects.

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“We can no longer claim that we have potential for excellence. There are about 21 departments in which special assistance programmes are under implementation whose total value is about Rs 20 crore,” points out Prof Satyanarayana.

The State has been angling for investments not only in the education sector but in all areas of economy. Any indication that a national event of the scale of the Indian Science Congress could not be held because of law and order consideration might compel potential investors to think twice, a development the State cannot afford, at this point in time.

Though the academic fraternity suspects that law and order cannot be the reason, they are not sure what had prompted the Vice-Chancellor to throw up his hands in exasperation.

Forcing the postponement of the Indian Science Congress event, Osmania University, has earned for itself an avoidable dubious distinction. The latest is that the science extravaganza is likely to be allotted to Manipur Central University, which will tentatively conduct the prestigious event in March.

“The students were eagerly looking forward to the event and were keen on being integral to it. They were in no mood to create any sort of disturbances. It is unfair to blame them,” Prof Satyanarayana said.

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Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) described the postponement as evidence that in universities that do not enjoy autonomy, the VCs toe the line of the government of the day, a remark that has been made by ABVP central working committee member M Raghaveder.

There are voices that suggest that the government was against the Osmania University. According to Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, Mohammad Shabber Ali, “Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is prejudiced against the OU and its students. This is the reason for the shifting of the venue.”

The ISC’s postponement became known after the Ministry of Science and Technology issued a statement which was based on inputs from Dr Achyut Samanta, General President of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA).

ISCA General Secretary Prof Gangadhar had said that the vice-chancellor of Osmania University had informed them it would not be possible to host the Science Congress because of disturbances on the campus.

It is unfortunate that the OU, which was set up in 1918 and which is seventh oldest in the country, should lose ISC particularly when it is celebrating its centenary year. #KhabarLive