By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHIâ€“Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, who is also the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, has expressed the governmentâ€™s decision to take measures to increase access of minorities to professional education. â€œThe government has recognized that minorities in particular need much greater access to professional education and modern skill training,â€ she said as chief guest of the eightth convocation of Jamia Hamdard University in New Delhi (May 10).
Drawing attention to several measures recently announced by the government, Gandhi said: â€œThe UPA government has recognized the need to put special focus on the traditionally disadvantaged sections, which is why it has vastly expanded scholarships for minorities, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and girls.â€
Crediting PM Singh for considering measures in this direction, Gandhi said: â€œPrime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has put his personal imprint on major initiatives to expand the infrastructure for higher education. 30 new central universities are to be stated over the next five years, 370 new degree colleges will be established in districts, which are educationally backward. These include 90 districts, which have a substantial concentration of minority population,â€ she said. â€œI believe it is the fundamental responsibility of the government to provide education and with increasing enrolment, we must also improve the quality of all educational institutions,â€ she emphasized. â€œThis encompasses much more than just buildings and faculty. We need to harness Information Technology and adopt state-of-the-art teaching methods,â€ she said.
While education accounted for only 8% of the total allocation in 10th Five Year Plan, it has been increased to 20% in the 11th Five-Year-Plan, primarily because of the impetus being given to technical and higher education.
During her address, Gandhi also pointed to only 10% of the countryâ€™s youth securing access to higher education. She stressed the need for the private sector to play an important role.
In all, 2,000 students received their degrees at the convocation, including 84 Ph.D. degrees and 93 gold medals for the academic period 2005-07. Congratulating the students, Gandhi urged them to reflect on their having been fortunate to receive quality education. â€œAll of us have a basic obligation to the lesser fortunate among us. Whichever sphere you choose, you must have a sense of concern towards them,â€ she said.
Complimenting the role played by Jamia Hamdard University for its role in providing higher education, she drew attention to her familyâ€™s long association with its founder Hakeem Abdul Hameed.
â€œHakeem Sahabâ€™s memory is particularly dear to us not only because he symbolised the ideal of communal harmony, but also because he was ever-conscious of his larger social responsibilities,â€ she said.
It may be pointed out that Jamia Hamdardâ€™s history begins with the establishment of a small Unani clinic in 1906 by Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed. With a vision of expanding Unani medicine into a scientific discipline, so that Unani medicines could be given to patients in an efficacious manner, he gave the name â€œHamdardâ€ to his venture. Hamdard means â€œsympathy for all and sharing of pain.â€ His son, Hakeem Abdul Hameed carried forward his vision, by focussing on setting up a complex of educational institutions. The year 1989 marked a major step in this direction, with Jamia Hamdard being given status of Deemed to be University.
Originally conceived as a seat of higher learning in Unani medicine, Islamic Studies, Biosciences, Pharmacy, Nursing and other areas, over the past few years, it has begun courses in Information Technology, Computer Applications, Business Management, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.
Among the dignitaries present for the convocation were Human Resources Development Minister (HRD) Arjun Singh, Haryana Governor A.R. Kidwai, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, University Chancellor Saiyid Hamid and Vice Chancellor Shameem Ahmad.
On the occasion, Kidwai and Kakodkar were honoured with honorary D. Sc. Degrees.
Complimenting the university for its growth, HRD Minister Singh said that it had emerged as an outstanding institution for higher education. He commended the role played by it in providing integrated studies in medicine.
Reflecting on the universityâ€™s â€œlong, deep and emotional relationshipâ€ with Delhiites, Dikshit commended the institution for the range of courses it offered.
The vice-chancellor highlighted activities undertaken by the university in various areas, including academics and its infrastructure. â€œIn terms of infrastructure, a 200-seated boysâ€™ hostel was added recently. A four-storey building for Hamdard Nanobiotechnology Advanced Research Center was completed recently to provide modular research laboratory facilities. The construction of a 200-seated girlsâ€™ hostel and flats for teaching faculty of the upcoming HIMS is on the anvil. Basic sciences laboratories for anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and community medicines have been set up,â€ he said.
â€œThe Academic Council took an innovative step in introducing the engineering science programs along with the ongoing courses of basic sciences and clinical sciences. Some new programs like M.Sc. Bioinformatics will be launched from July this year,â€ Ahmad said.
It may be pointed out, Hakeem Abdul Hameed (14th Sept. 1908 – 22 July 1999) established Jamia Hamdard with his own resources. He set up several institutions with the funds of Hamdard Wakf Laboratories. These include Hamdard National Foundation, Hamdard Education Society, Hamdard Study Circle, Hamdard Public School, Hamdard Institute of Historical Research, Ghalib Academy, Center for South Asian Studies and Business & Employment Bureau.
Notwithstanding the assurances given by the government in extending aid to minorities in various fields, including education, there is no denying that India is home to outstanding Muslims who have not waited for actual implementation of promises made by government.