Computer scientist Vijay P Bhatkar, who led the development of India's first supercomputer, Param, after the US refused to sell supercomputers to India, will be the new chancellor of Nalanda University (NU).
Bhatkar was appointed by President Pranab Mukherjee in his capacity as the NU visitor on Friday , six weeks after former Singapore minister George Yeo quit as NU chancellor. In his strong-worded resignation letter to Mukherjee, Yeo protested against the “unceremonious“ ouster of interim VC Gopa Sabharwal, interpreting it as an attack on the autonomy of the varsity .
Sabharwal had been directed by the NU governing body , headed by the chancellor, to continue as interim VC. But the Rashtrapati Bhavan asked her to demit office as she could not be given a second extension as per the University act.
Soon after Sabharwal's ouster, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had written to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, on December 5 last year, urging the Narendra Modi-led NDA government not to tamper with the essence behind the “idea of Nalanda“. In 2015, NU's founding chancellor Amartya Sen had refrained from seeking a second term, saying that the Modi government did not want him to continue.
Bhatkar served as a member of the scientific advisory committee to the PM, and the governing council of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He was also a member of the IT Task Force constituted by the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998. Bhatkar was awarded the Padma Shri in 2000. He also recieved Maharashtra Bhushan Award, the highest recognition of the government of Maharashtra, in 2000.
The revival of the ancient Nalanda Mahavihara was mooted by former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006. The university , backed by 17 countries, was inaugurated by Swaraj in 2014.
The number of students has increased from 12 in the first batch (2014-16) to 130 from 13 different countries.Classes are held at a makeshift campus, while a sprawling campus is being developed near the ruins of the ancient Nalanda Mahavihara.