Srinagar: The only way institutions of higher learning in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country can achieve excellence is through complete internal autonomy by dispensing with bureaucratic financial and administrative control, noted academician Amitabh Mattoo said here on Tuesday.

Interacting with faculty members and students at the local Amar Singh College, his alma mater, Mattoo said he was revisiting the college after 34 years and lot of water had flowed down the Jhelum river since then.

“The worst that can happen to any institution of higher learning is official control over finances and administration by the bureaucracy,” said Mattoo, also a noted strategic analyst and commentator.

“Our bureaucracy is a legacy left behind by the British who wanted white-collared servants to rule and not to govern,” said Mattoo, a member of the national knowledge commission which advises the prime minister. 

Mattoo, who has been the youngest vice chancellor of any Indian university at the age of 40 and served as vice chancellor of Jammu University (2002-2008), said: “I believe that every college, every university should have complete autonomy.”

“I have taught and led institutions in India and abroad and one of the worst things you can do is undermine the autonomy of any institution,” he added.

Mattoo, who has been the inaugural director and the chief executive officer of Australia-India Institute and professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said there would be soon 600 million people under the age of 21 in India.

“Normally, in most countries, when you have this youth bulge, it is a cause of celebration as it is seen as a great asset. The foundations of modern America were laid because of the baby boom in the post World War period,” he said.

“In India and in Jammu and Kashmir unfortunately we do not have either a programme or policies to be able to harness the resources of these young people.

“I am part of the national knowledge commission which advises the prime minister and we say, in higher education what you need is expansion, equity and excellence.

“You need more institutions and while doing so you cannot afford to compromise quality because the students those come out of these institutions will have to compete with others not only in the country, but globally and internationally,” Mattoo said.

“Unfortunately, none of the reforms suggested were undertaken by the previous UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government. The result has been that you have created more institutions, but those institutions are second to third rate institutions,” he added.

Interacting with the audience, the noted academician answered college teachers and students’ questions, ranging from his idea of a final solution to the Kashmir problem and the overbearing postures of television news channel anchors.

Answering a question on what would be the best solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, Mattoo replied in lighter vein: “If I had answer to that question, I would have been the secretary general of the United Nations.”

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