Not to letThe government must form a strong body to probe into TU land acquisition
The dawn of democracy in 1951 presented Nepal with an awakening: Education institutions are imperative for the growth of a country. Development hinges on awareness and practicality—achieved principally through education. Realising this importance, six years later, the idea of establishing Tribhuvan University germinated.
The plan began with acquiring 3,703 ropanis of private land used by locals for agricultural purposes. The process of land acquisition served as a foundational step in the plan to construct Nepal’s first and pioneering educational institutional hub with a network across the country.
But over time, that purpose has been diluted. And the evidence is written into the land. As initial intentions have floundered, the land designated for educational purposes have considerably shrunk. Within the plot today stand 12 institutions spread over a combined 978 ropanis which are not related to education at all. Of this space, 2 ropanis have been given to Nepal Bank, which pays a monthly rent of Rs1,300. Global Bank has also been given space at a price of Rs28,000. Constructed roads, which cut into houses owned by university officials, occupy 200 ropanis. Between a string of sporadically placed petrol pumps, 50 ropanis have been occupied and rented by professor associations and the university workers union.
Leaders at the educational institution have seemingly turned into landlords who have regularly bargained with the university’s geography. Two years ago, the university had to pay Rs30,809,024 to the water utility Nepal Khanepani, but because it failed to produce the amount, it gave 25 ropanis of its land to Melamchi Khanepani in exchange. The property today is worth around Rs1 billion. On top of the rampant land grabbing, none of the entities occupying the land have paid taxes.
Within the university, the primary focus should be on expanding schools. The physical infrastructure and the quality of education have both continually deteriorated over the years. The sorry state has jeopardised the potential of the university and, more importantly, its students. Given that, the nonchalant attitude of the authorities concerned is worrisome. Locals of Kirtipur who were made to give up their land in the name of education should not have any regrets about the decision taken decades ago. The contribution was then made for a noble cause, but the greed and irresponsibility of authorities has defeated its purpose come today. In simple terms, this land grab has left the public feeling cheated.
Public institutions are called public for a reason—they are established to cater to and represent the values of the mass audience. To stop this rampant misuse of land, the government must form a strong, dedicated body to look into the matter. Higher education is not for sale, and institutions who claim to represent it cannot behave as commercial actors guided solely by a motive to reap profits.