The University Grants Commission has sent universities a list of 100 "tourist destinations" for organising student visits as part of the Centre's Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat programme. However, some academics have questioned the move as dictatorial, and stated the choice of sites as biased.
Pankaj Jha, history professor at Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi, pointed out the absence of many famous sites associated with Muslim and colonial rule as well as those reflective of independent India's achievements. "There is a greater emphasis on the sites of ancient (apparently Hindu) history rather than medieval (apparently Muslim) or modern (apparently colonial but also Independent India) period," Jha told The Telegraph.
While Bijapur and Murshidabad, both associated with the medieval period and Muslim rule, are on the list, the Red Fort and Humayun's Tomb in Delhi have been excluded from the list. And though Agra gets a mention under "monuments included in list of World Heritage and Iconic Sites", the Taj Mahal is not named.
Delhi, both Old and New, with an impressive history, has been entirely ignored. Calcutta, the capital of British India till 1911, and Mumbai, the financial capital and the hub films and the birthplace of the Indian Railways, too has met a similar fate.
The list of 'excluded' also includes colonial structures like the two Victorias — Memorial (in Kolkata) and Terminus (in Mumbai). So are the Cellular Jail in the Andamans and Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate and the Gateway to India.
In a letter, dated September 22, UGC secretary Rajnish Jain said that the National Education Policy proposes to strengthen and promote the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat among students. Meanwhile, Jha said the UGC move is an effort by the government to closely "control and regulate" academic activities in institutions of higher education.4
What Is Included On The List?
An area which has been heavily represented on the list is the Northeast, with Imphal, Aizawl, and Itanagar featuring under the head "capital of state" — although Itanagar has been placed in Nagaland rather than Arunachal Pradesh — and Agartala, Dimapur, Dibrugarh and Silchar mentioned for their "airports".
Some Buddhist sites also figure on the list. Sarnath, Shravasti, Kapilavastu and Kushinagar of Uttar Pradesh and Bodhgaya, Vaishali and Rajgir of Bihar make it on the list under the "Buddhist Circuit"
Chilika Lake, Nagarjunakonda (Buddhist site in Andhra Pradesh), Fort Kochi and the Jain pilgrimage spot of Sravanabelagola in Karnataka also find a mention on the list.