Rabindra Bharati University (RBU) is an institution which has at its core, the memoirs of Rabindranath Tagore — one of the greatest bards the world has ever produced. The ancestral house of the Tagores is fondly called the Thakurbari of Jorasanko. This is also where the university headquarters are located.
This site virtually represents the equivalent of an educational and cultural pilgrimage, as also the Emerald Bower of B.T. Road. The latter is also another major campus of the university and has been recognised as a heritage building by the Government of West Bengal and the Central Government.
The RBU celebrated its golden jubilee in 2011, the same year as Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary. In light of this, higher education authorities in the state wanted to initiate a social project that would benefit society at large. One key proposal was to establish a new campus of the RBU in North Bengal to promote the study of fine and visual arts encompassing various fields like dance, drama, vocal music, instrumental music, painting, Rabindra sangeet, sculpture, graphics, multimedia, tourism studies, animation and museology, among others. The proposed curriculum was to cater to both graduation and post-graduation courses.
The ball was set in motion
A joint inspection was conducted on a 50-acre plot of land in a rural area called Nembutari. This village was home to 776 people, with Siliguri being the closest major city. The two existing universities in the region include the North Bengal University and the newly formed Gour Banga University. A request was also made to the Principal Secretary of the Higher Education Department to approve setting up of the RBU’s North Bengal campus.
It must be highlighted that a university catering primarily to the arts is absent not only in North Bengal but also in Northeast India. Siliguri makes for an ideal location since it already boasts a cosmopolitan population and is a melting pot of sorts for regional culture. The city is termed the ‘Gateway to Northeast India’. It is a pivotal location in terms of road, rail and air communication.
The proposed campus can attract prospective students from the seven sisters as also from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The Buri Balason river flows through the land where the campus is likely to be built. There is a tea estate adjacent to the planned site and it further complements the already scenic location. It sure will add to the ideals of a cultural university campus.
Proposed land use
Office records establish that 10 acres of land will be allocated for construction of the performing arts department. This will include vocal music, dance, drama, mass communication and videography.
Another 10 acres are proposed to be set aside for setting up of the fine arts department. The latter will include visual art, printing, applied arts, sculpture designing, art history and museology.
The remaining 30 acres will be allocated towards construction of an on-campus bank, post-office, separate male and female hostels for both teachers and students, office and administrative blocks, staff quarters, guest houses, auditoriums for all departments, an amphitheatre and playgrounds. It will also accommodate an art gallery for showcasing student projects and a house a museum too.
Associated benefits are aplenty
If this project is followed through to completion, it will create an employment hub for 500-700 people initially. The local handicraft economy will also receive a boost. We know how well Shantiniketan is contributing in this regard. The economic importance of North Bengal will multiply because it will augment the state treasury and even boost tourism footfalls in the region.
This project is forecast to attract over 14 lakh visitors annually as per the tourism survey record of 2017. There will be strides made in post-secondary education and improvements will be registered at micro levels since quality yet affordable education will be extended.
The proposed university is also going to benefit from the upgradation of regional infrastructure. The Asian Highway runs in close proximity and the nearby Bagdogra Airport is on course to receive entirely new terminals by 2025. It already boasts direct connectivity to several major cities in the country. Sound infrastructure always leads to swift development, which in turn, is instrumental in attracting both students and educators. It is my earnest desire to witness the speedy commencement of this project.