(This article, written by Chitta Baral, has been submitted to a main stream newspaper for publication.)
On May 8th 2007, NDA MPs from Orissa brought a call attention notice in the Lok Sabha about an IIT in Orissa and dissatisfied with the response walked out of the parliament and were supported by other NDA MPs in this walkout. Speaking about this MP Baijayanta Panda of BJD is reported to have said, “Orissa is being continuously neglected by the Centre, especially by the ministry of HRD.” Is Mr. Panda right? Or is this a typical whining allegation that opposition parties from various states regularly throw at the government.
Let us look at the facts in terms of what the MHRD under the current government has done with respect to higher education institutions. In this we will consider the marquee institution types that are fully funded by the MHRD; the IITs, IIMs, IIITs, SPAs, IISERs, IIESTs (Indian Institutes of Engineering Science and Technology, also referred to as IIT clones) and central universities. Since the UPA came to power at least 23 such institutions have been either created new or announced to be created or have been upgraded to the above kinds. Those institutions and the states they belong to are as follows:
- IISER Kolkata, West Bengal (1)
- IISER Pune, Maharashtra (1)
- IISER Mohali, Punjab (1)
- IISER in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh (1)
- IISER in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala (1)
- IIT in Andhra Pradesh (1)
- IIT in Rajasthan (1)
- IIT in Bihar (1)
- IIM at Shillong, Meghalaya (1)
- SPA in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh (2)
- SPA in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh (2)
- Upgradation of Bengal Engineering and Sc U to an IIT clone (IIEST), West Bengal (2)
- Upgradation of Andhra Univ Engineering College to IIT clone (IIEST), Andhra Pradesh (3)
- Upgradation of Osmania Univ Engg College to IIT clone (IIEST), Andhra Pradesh (4)
- Upgradation of IT BHU to IIT clone (IIEST), Uttar Pradesh (1)
- Upgradation of Cochin Univ of Sc and Tech to IIT clone (IIEST), Kerala (2)
- IIIT Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu (1)
- Allahbad University made to a Central University, Uttar Pradesh (2)
- Manipur University made to a Central University, Manipur (1)
- Arunachal Pradesh university made to a Central University, Arunachal Pradesh (1)
- Tripura university made to a Central University, Tripura (1)
- New Central University in Sikkim, Sikkim (1)
- CIEFL Hyderabad made to a central university, Andhra Pradesh (5)
Can you find Orissa in that list?
Does this prove that Orissa is being discriminated? Not conclusively yet, as one may say that the list does not have many other states such as Karnataka, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Assam etc.
But Karnataka has an IISc, Gujarat has an IIM, Jharkhand has an Indian School of Mines, Assam has an IIT and 2 central universities; all these fully funded by MHRD. Orissa has no IITs, IIMs, central universities, institutions of national importance etc. It has only one fully funded MHRD institution, one of the 20 NITs.
An earlier rough calculation 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. We publicized this data last year and that may have played a role in IITs being allotted to Bihar and Rajasthan.
But it seems the MHRD got further upset with Orissa and decided to punish it some more. Even though Union minister of state for HRD MAA Fatmi is reported (in Times of India) on 28-8-06 to have said in Patna, “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,” the MHRD now says that there was no such plan. How low can some big shots at MHRD go to discriminate against Orissa? Apparently, much lower!
Indian Express reported that while answering the motion on May 8th Minister of State for Human Resources D. Purandareswari “proceeded to read out a list of educational institutions in the state that were receiving Central assistance.” She was doing that apparently to counter that Orissa was being discriminated by MHRD. She should have looked at the list we give above and also looked at the list of educational institutions in *all* states. (We have both lists.) She would not have found Orissa in the first list and would have found that every state has myriad institutions that get central assistance. To use the later to try to show lack of discrimination against Orissa is laughable.
Unfortunately, this is not all that the MHRD with the current leadership has done. It started with the MHRD completely ignoring an NDA decision to establish one of the four National Institutes of Science in Bhubaneswar, and changing the name to IISERs and establishing them in other places. This led to a lot of protest in Orissa, but that did not bother the MHRD, which for some inexplicable reason has chosen to punish Orissa. Fortunately, the Prime Minister could not tolerate this blatant discrimination and established an NISER through his Department of Atomic Energy. This of course should not be used as an excuse to deprive Orissa, as various non-MHRD ministries have also established institutes or announced them all over India, including in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, where 2 of the new IITs are to be established. This includes NIPER like institutes in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal; Indian institutes of Public Health in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, UP, Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal; Indian Institute of Space Technology in Kerala, Maritime University in Tamil Nadu, etc. (We skip the AIIMS-like institutions as in that case along with 6 new institutes there is a plan to upgrade 13 existing hospitals; thus equitably covering all of India.)
So now that we have laid out the case, we wonder if you readers agree with us that MHRD blatantly discriminates against Orissa. If so do you think we should have MHRD ministers who do blatant discrimination against a particular state? Should the prime minister and the UPA Chairperson tolerate an MHRD that does such blatant discrimination and a planning commission that has allowed such discrimination? Such ministers and their blatant discrimination are danger to the fabric of India and completely go against the maxim of equitable distribution of resources that the prime minister has championed time and again.
Hence, the following appeal to the Prime Minister. Dr. Singh, Please pay close attention and ask the planning commission to pay close attention to actions that have added to the existing inequity and make amends. In particular, you recently said to the Orissa Chief Minister that you will take all steps needed to promote development in Orissa. Sir, please keep your word. An IIT is absolutely necessary for Orissa, which is trying its best to get out of India’s cellar by rapidly industrializing and building a knowledge hub around its capital.
While you are at it, please also check on the speculation that a tribal central university in the most backward district cluster of India, the KBK districts, proposed by the Orissa chief minister and whose rationale was reported to have been appreciated by Mr. Arjun Singh, is being hijacked. If it is true, please also make amends, perhaps by having a KBK Central tribal university in addition to the other one; otherwise your maxim of equitability across India may suffer yet another near death blow.