Saturday, April 21, 2007

Frequently asked Questions related to the current movement towards an IIT in Orissa

1. Why this FAQ?

When one brings up the topic of establishing an IIT in Orissa MHRD officials, ministers and spokesperson, and even many technical education committee members sometimes retort back: "Why does it matter where an IIT is located as students from any where in India, including from Orissa, can study in an IIT."

Until recently, I thought it was just some thing said and not really meant by the MHRD officials or the technical education committee members. However, a recent exchange of emails with one of the most well respected technologists of India, Mr. K, makes it clear that many influential people in decision making roles sincerely believe that it does not matter where an IIT is located as students from any where in India can study in an IIT. This misconception needs to be cleared up, as otherwise, as we argue below, it will further worsen the existing inequities in India.

Many in Orissa also question why one should focus on getting an IIT to Orissa when there are several other pressing issues in Orissa. In this FAQ we try to address these and related questions.

2. Why does it matter where an IIT is located as students from any where in India, including from Orissa, can study in an IIT no matter where it is located.

(a) If one thinks of an IIT as a place where people go to study and get their degrees and evaluate its impact based on this aspect solely then it does not matter that much where it is located, and Mr. K is right. But an IIT is not just that.

An IIT is an infrastructure and it has and can also have huge impact on the local area (say within 100 kms) of where it is located.

An institution like IIT is (or will be) an engine of growth in and around the place where it is established. Examples abound: Stanford and Berkeley's impact on the Silicon Valley of California; Harvard and MIT's impact on the Boston corridor and our own IISc's impact on Bangalore are testament to this. (Stanford University and MIT have spawned many top-notch companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Bose electronics, all in the vicinity of the university.)

True, many of our existing IITs do not seem to have that much local impact. But that is changing. The example that is often bandied about as an IIT with no local impact, IIT Kharagpur, is now leading in this. It is helping in the development of a Biotech park near it and has also decided to create a super speciality hospital and start a medical college in Kharagpur.

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All our IITs will soon have similar and much more local impact and a few decades down the road they could have the impact of a Stanford on Silicon Valley and MIT and Harvard on the Boston corridor.

Moreover, many companies would like to be in a location with an IIT because that provides opportunities for their employees to pursue a higher degree, and because they can collaborate with the IIT faculty and students on cutting edge research. Thus having an IIT makes an otherwise good location a bigger attractor to companies for establishment of branch or for relocation.

(b) At present IITs are India's best graduate schools in engineering. They are the best place, and often are the only place within hundreds of miles, with a comprehensive array of M.Tech and Ph.D programs. In the last decade Orissa has developed 40+ engineering

Colleges ( ), mostly private ones. However, only handful of faculty in these colleges have Ph.Ds or M.Techs. In contrast, the faculty in most engineering programs in US have Ph.Ds. Several efforts are being made by AICTE, UGC and other organization to improve the quality of faculty in engineering colleges across India. Such efforts include QIP (Quality improvement programs) in various IITs and selected NITs. However, such efforts are not enough as often faculty at a private engineering college, say in the Bhubaneswar area (with 26 and growing engineering colleges), would have to take leave and then pursue a higher degree as the nearest IIT and NIT are more than 300kms away from Bhubaneswar.

However if there was an IIT within an hour and half of Bhubaneswar then many of the faculty in the 26 (and growing) odd engineering colleges in and around Bhubaneswar would be able to pursue higher a degree in that IIT without taking complete leave of their job and without relocating.

As a proof that this theory works, we submit the example of the Institute of Physics in Bhubaneswar. It is a national institute admitting students from all over India. However, if one looks at its alumni one will

find that a large number of Ph.Ds are from Orissa and many of these Ph.Ds have gone on to be Physics faculty in various colleges in Orissa.

Here we want to state that we do not subscribe that an IIT in Orissa should have any preference or quota for students from Orissa. Its just a fact of life that, especially at the graduate level, for QIP, and for industry sponsored candidates, more local people join take advantage of the opportunity as it is easy for them to do that.

3. After getting convinced by arguments 1 and 2 one may then say that there are many places in India that would ask for an IIT citing the exact reasons as stated in 1 and 2. Why then should Orissa get preference.

This is a good question but with an easy answer. IITs are funded by the ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of India. A rough calculation detailed at showed that MHRD was scheduled to spend Rs 4.07 on fully funded HRD institutions (like IITs, IIMs, etc.) per person in Orissa, while it will spend Rs 183.08 in Delhi, Rs 41.20 in West Bengal, Rs 33.4 in Karnataka, Rs 27 in Tamil Nadu, Rs 28.38 in Maharastra, Rs 17.73 in UP, Rs 16.05 in Andhra, Rs 33.27 in Punjab, Rs 8.13 in Haryana, Rs 7.90 in Kerala, Rs 9.02 in MP, Rs 4.87 in Gujurat, Rs 2.59 in Rajasthan, and Rs 1.87 in Bihar. In other words Bihar, Rajasthan and Orissa were at the bottom of per-capita spending by MHRD in its fully funded higher education institutions. Now that IITs have been allotted to Bihar and Rajasthan, it is imperative that the next IIT

should have been allotted to Orissa. Since Orissa was skipped over, to correct this injustice an IIT should be immediately allotted to Orissa.

3a. But the central government is already establishing a NISER in Bhubaneswar.

(i) NISER (National Institute of Science Education and Research) will have mainly science disciplines. An IIT's focuses are technological and engineering disciplines. So having a NISER does not overcome the need for an IIT.

(ii) NISER is funded by Dept. of Atomic Energy and not by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Not only most other states have multiple fully MHRD funded institutions (such as IIT, IISER, IIM and Central University in West Bengal; IIT, IISER and Central Universities in Maharashtra, etc.) but two of the three states that have been picked for the greenfield IITs have been simultaneously granted other institutes that are funded by MHRD or other ministries. For example, Andhra Pradesh has been granted two MHRD funded IIESTs (Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology), which are referred to as IIT clones, a Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizers funded NIPER (National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research) like institute and an Indian Institute of Public Health. Similarly, Bihar has also been granted a NIPER like institute.

4. Some people question that there are so many issues in Orissa, and why should the people pick establishing an IIT as a high priority item at this point of time.

Due to the way the central government of India collects its taxes and distributes it to states, states always have to ask this and that from the central government. When an injustice happens the states have a much bigger moral authority to demand and as a result

if the demand is kept up then there is a high chance that the state will succeed in getting its demand granted.

In case of IIT, TOI reported that Union minister of state for HRD MAA Fatmi on 28-8-06 said, "The proposal for one IIT for Bihar and two for Orissa and one Western Indian state besides one IIIT to Bihar will be included in 11th Five Year Plan." With respect to Orissa he probably referred to one of the 3 new IITs proposed to be in the 11th plan and a branch campus of IIT KGP in BBSR. However, later news reports say that the 3 new IITs will be in Bihar, Rajasthan and AP. Thus a huge injustice has been done to Orissa and Orissa has a high moral ground to pursue the correction of this injustice.

5. Some people say that one of the main goal of making an IIT is to create world class institutions in India and the locations should be based on that.

We agree and will argue that a location within an hour or hour and half of Bhubaneswar (note: 1.5 hours one way is a typical commute from home to office in Mumbai) is a perfect location for an IIT.

(a) Bhubaneswar is well connected to cities and towns all over India.

Considering only non-stop or one-stop without plane changes, Bhubaneswar has 5 daily flights to Delhi, 3 to Calcutta, 3 to Hyderabad, 2 to Mumbai, 2 to Chennai, 2.3 to Bangalore, 1 to Vizag, and partial connections to Ranchi and Raipur. More details are at

Bhubaneswar has multiple daily direct trains to Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, a daily train to Mumbai, and trains to all corners of India (Guwahati, Kerala, Goa, Gujarat, Jaipur, Punjab, Rishikesh, Kanpur, Lucknow, Benras, Patna, Raipur, Bhopal, etc.) A map of Bhubaneswar's railway connectivity is at and a table is at

(b) The Bhubaneswar area has sustained high quality research and educational institutions such as Institute of Physics, Institute of Life Sciences and Xaviers Institute of Mangament, and has many universities such as Utkal University, Orissa university of Agriculture and Technology, Utkal University of Culture, Ravenshaw University. Moreover, recently several several high profile higher education institutions have found the area to be suitable. This includes the proposed NISER (National Institute of Science Education and Research), the proposed Vedanta University (near Puri) and the proposed university by the Art of Living trust of Shri Shri Ravishankar. Thus there is no reason why an area within 1 to 1.5 hours of Bhubaneswar is not suitable for an IIT.

(c) A world class institution needs local goodwill to grow and blossom. When there is a need then the local people will appreciate and help an institution like IIT located in their midst. Earlier, we established the need of an IIT in Orissa. Thus the people of Orissa, because of their need, will appreciate and help in the growth of an IIT in Orissa.

5b. Is Orissa industrialized enough? Are there industries in Orissa that will be benefited by an IIT?

Although Orissa is behind many other states in terms of industrialization, in recent years there has been tremendous industrial growth in Orissa and an IIT is necessary to nurture, support and amplify that growth. Besides existing industries such SAIL Rourkela, NALCO, NTPC, MCL, etc., following is a short list on new industry coming up in Orissa during the last three years:

(i) Metal Sector: 45 projects over 70 mtpa of steel (22 of them partly commissioned) with more than US$45 billion investment; 4 new aluminum complexes and 1 mtpa aluminium smelter capacity under implementation with US$10 billion investment and rare earth projects worth US$0.5 billion. The investors in this sector include POSCO, Arcelor-Mittal, Tata Steel, Bhusan, Jindal, Essar, Hindalco, Vedanta, L&T Dubal etc.

(ii) Chemical and Petrochemical: 15 mtpa US$6 billion mega petrochemical by IOC; Deepak Fertilizers implementing 2 chemical projects at Paradeep, etc.

(iii) Energy and power: 13 thermal power projects under implementation with capacity of 13,500 MW with investment of US$14 billion and Reliance Industry hydrocarbon based power generation and gas grid (US$1.5Bn). The investors include Tata Power, Reliance energy, Sterlite energy, Mahanadi Aban, Monnet Ispat, Essar power, Lanco group, NavBharat Power, CESC and GMR energy.

(iv) Ports: 2 new ports are under construction at Dhamara and Gopalpur and three others at Jatadhari, Kirtania and Astaranga are in the pipeline with MOUs on them signed.

(v) IT: Infosys, Satyam, TCS, Wipro, Genepact, Mindtree, Hexaware, etc.

6. Since you have mentioned Bhubaneswar so many times, are you saying that the greenfield IIT in Orissa should be located in Bhubaneswar. Is Orissa just Bhubaneswar?

My personal preference for a greenfield IIT is a place in the Ganjam district of South Orissa (which is one of the most backward area of India) at a place within 1-1.5 hours of Bhubaneswar on NH-5 and 30-40 minutes of Berhampur on NH-5, the major town in South Orissa. This location will be the best of both worlds, close enough to Bhubaneswar to avail of all the opportunities there and help the 29+ engineering colleges in the Bhubaneswar-Berhampur corridor and yet in south Orissa and close to South Orissa's major city so as to impact the backward South Orissa region in many other ways. An IIT at such a location will help build a Bhubaneswar-Berhampur hi-tech corridor.

Moreover, the other major metropolitan area of Orissa, Rourkela has an NIT. Among the other larger towns and locality, Sambalpur has the Burla Engineering College, which the state and the people are pursuing to make into an IIEST (Indian Institute of Engineering Sc. And Technology) and the North Orissa towns (Balasore and Baripada) are within an hour and half of IIT Kharagpur.

The KBK districts and Gajapati are still left out. Gajapati is adjacent to Ganjam. In the future this proposed IIT in Ganjam may establish small branches and extension centers in KBK towns such as Rayagada, Koraput, Bhawanipatna and Titlagarh. Moreover, for these districts the Orissa government is pursuing and will continue pursuing a multi-campus KBK Central University.

7. What can I do?

Please spread the word among your Oriya friends.

No matter where you are you can write to the Prime minister, the HRD minister, UPA Chair person, the CM, the Orissa MPs, journalists, etc. about this. Please keep tab at http:/ for more suggestions, addresses etc.

If you are in Orissa (especially Bhubaneswar) please join hands with Agami Orissa.

If you are in Delhi, please help in Agami Orissa's program in Delhi.

If you are in other cities in India, please spread the word among other Oriyas, draft a letter and have it signed by local Oriyas and mail it to the PM. (If you are in a state capital, you may consider presenting the letter to the Governor and have this news item published.)

If you are abroad, but in a city with an Indian Consulate, please draft a letter (sample letters are at and get it signed by local Oriyas and present it to the Consul general with request to send it to the PM. (Send one directly to the PM too.) Tell the local media about it and try to get the news published.

1 comment:

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