BHUBANESWAR: Orissa politicians seem adept at making an issue of nothing. The latest is the demand for setting up of an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology). Last week, MPs of the Biju Janta Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party sat on dharna in front of the Lok Sabha protesting against the Centre's rejection of Orissa's demand for establishment of a new IIT in the state.
The Centre has decided to set up three IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan during the Eleventh Plan period. Orissa politicians believe the Centre has shifted one IIT that had originally been allotted to Orissa to Andhra Pradesh. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, some time in January 2007, had demanded a greenfield IIT in the state.
The CM also urged the PM and the Union human resources development minister to facilitate the setting up of an extension campus of IIT, Kharagpur, in the state. The board of directors of IIT, Kharagpur, has approved an off-campus in Bhubaneswar and the state government has assured allotment of 300 acre free of cost. But the off-campus is not coming up as the required clearance has not coming from the Union HRD ministry. "Shocking", rues Patnaik. "The Centre has done a great injustice to the state by ignoring its rightful demand", he says.
Earlier, state politicians had made an issue out of the location of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). On popular belief that the IISc was shifted to West Bengal soon after the UPA came to power, BJD-BJP leaders made noises alleging the Centre's negligence. Finally, the PM had to announce the establishment of a National Institute of Science Education and Research in the state.
Meanwhile, Orissa has lined up three universities in the private sector. While Vedanta Resources has signed an MoU with the state government to establish a world class university over an area of 8,000 acre with an investment of Rs 15,000 crore, spiritual guru Ravi Shankar and the Hyderabad-based Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India have proposed two separate universities. The ICFAI university will come up over 75 acre, with an investment of Rs 150 crore.
There are five universities in the government sector in the state. KIIT, a private degree engineering college has been accorded deemed university status. Orissa has 40 engineering degree colleges with an intake capacity of 12,000 students. As many as 19 colleges are providing MBA courses. Hence, the chief minister, while demanding an IIT, should first make a serious endeavour to improve the quality of education in existing engineering colleges. For, a lone IIT will not be able to meet the demand from scores of industries he has lined up in recent years.