Friday, June 1, 2007

Pioneer: Cong on backfoot over IIT issue

Braja Kishore Mishra | Bhubaneswar

State Congress leaders are on a face saving mode. Failure on their part to impress the UPA Government at the Centre to set up an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) will have a humiliating effect on them, feel political analysts.

As the Budget Session of the State Assembly began on Friday, the leading Opposition party will face a determined Treasury Bench on various issues in general and that of IIT in particular, they say.

While the Gen X of the State is eagerly waiting for an IIT, the State Congress and its leaders have miserably failed to raise the issue and now some of its leaders are busy in patchworks.

After returning from New Delhi, PCC president Jayadev Jena said, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has agreed to visit Orissa soon as he has requested him to visit the State shortly and review several ongoing Centrally-sponsored welfare programmes."

There was a similar report about Union Minister of State for Rural Development Chandrasekhar Sahu meeting the Prime Minister and making him agree to come to the State to announce some new institutes such as Indian Institute of Handloom Technology.

A comparison of an IIT with the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology (IIHT) in terms of investment is now being made. An analyst pointed out that as per the budget of the Department of Textiles, the total money for human resource development is Rs 3 crore. It seems that this Rs 3 crore includes the Budget for four existing handloom institutes in the country and probably the new one proposed at Bargarh in Orissa. In contrast, there is Rs 80 crore towards the groundwork for three new IITs and Rs 1,553 crore for the existing seven IITs. So, the annual Budget of an existing IIT is Rs 222 crore, while for an IIHT is at best Rs 1 crore.

Similarly, it takes Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 4,000 crore to make an IIT, while a handloom institute would be costing Rs 5 crore to Rs10 crore at best. IITs offer B.Tech, M.Tech and Ph.Ds and IIHT offers only diplomas. There is a genuine and urgent need for a topnotch IIT-type technological institute in the State.

Just in and around Bhubaneswar, there are 30-plus engineering colleges, but it has been alleged that the faculties of most of them are sub-standard. An IIT-type institute will allow these engineering colleges to send their faculties for a higher degree, thus having a huge impact on these colleges and their students. So, the State desperately and immediately needs an IIT or an equivalent institute, argue knowledgeable circles.

Sitting at a distance of thousands of miles in the USA and other countries, the non-resident Oriyas (NROs) impressed upon the BJD and BJP MPs to raise the issue of IIT in Parliament. The MPs of both parties and their NDA partners boycotted Lok Sabha recently in support of an IIT in the State. But Congress MPs both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha kept mum.

The other day when Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly JB Patnaik was asked about IIT, he said that the State Government is not serious about the issue as it has not sent any formal proposal to open an IIT in the Centre. But what prohibits him to raise the issue and impress the Prime Minister for an IIT, his critics ask.

This weakness of the Congress has not only made a serious dent in its image among the educated youth of the State but given an added advantage to the ruling coalition to ride a roughshod on the Opposition party during the month-long Assembly session, feel political observers.

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