KCR’s move to use universities’ lands for housing sparks row

The student and faculty associations threated to launch agitation if the government went ahead with the move.

By P S Jayaram

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Published: Sat 23 May 2015, 12:25 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 9:23 PM

Hyderabad — The Telangana government’s proposal to take over vast tracts of lands belonging to various universities in and around city for the purpose of constructing housing colonies for the poor has triggered a furore.

The student and faculty associations threated to launch agitation if the government went ahead with the move. However, brushing aside the protests, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao asserted that his government was determined to build houses for the poor on the university lands.

“Why do universities need so much land?  This is not the era of Maharajas to give away vast tracts of land. Every inch in urban areas has to be utilized properly. I will not budge from my position. We have a responsibility towards the poor,” Rao said.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government plans to build over two lakh houses for the poor after taking over vacant lands from the campuses of Osmania University, the University of Hyderabad and Agricultural University. The Chief Minister has already instructed the officials to identify the lands for the purpose of housing for the poor. The initiative is seen in political circles as part of the TRS’ efforts to woo the slum dwellers in the city keeping an eye on the imminent elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). To begin with, houses would be built on 11 acres of unused land of Osmania University.

However, both the student and faculty bodies in these universities have come out strongly against the government’s move.

Significantly, Osmania University was the nerve centre of the Telangana statehood movement, an uprising that had provided a major boost to TRS and contributed to its electoral success. The students and the faculty of the same campus have now turned against the ruling party and the Chief Minister.

“KCR (Chandrasekhar Rao) has been telling that thousands of acres of land in the city had been taken away by Andhra industrialists and others illegally. Why not take them back and construct houses for the poor in those lands?” asked P Kailash Neta, a leader of the Osmania University Unemployment Students Joint Action Committee (OUUSJAC). 

“If the government does not withdraw its proposal, university teachers will not hesitate to take to the streets and launch an agitation,” warned Prof Bhattu Satynarayana, president of Osmania University Teachers’ Association.

“The university was given title for the land under its jurisdiction specifically to further academics. Before taking any decision on the land, the state government should take the university registrar, custodian of the university, academicians and other stake-holders into confidence,” Prof K Narender of Osmania University Journalism Department said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress threw its weight behind the protesting students. “The Chief Minister comes up with construction plan wherever he sees an open land. In the name of weaker section housing, he wants to hand over lands to realtors for personal gains,” alleged the Congress floor leader in the State Legislative Council Mohamed Ali Shabbir.

Established in 1918, Osmania University is spread over nearly 1,600 acres. The University of Hyderabad (UoH), another prestigious educational institution in the city established in 1975, is spread over 1,785 acres.

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