On Monday, Jakob Lindenthal, a student from Germany at IIT Madras, returned home after he said he was asked to leave the country “immediately”, days after he attended protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the campus.
As it happens, IIT Madras was established with the help of West German technical expertise more than six decades ago. Apart from Madras, the Bombay, Kanpur, and Delhi IITs were also founded with assistance derived from foreign collaborations. Read in Tamil
Why did India decide to rope in foreign countries for setting up IITs, and which countries helped?
The book “The Outsourcer: The Story of India’s IT Revolution” by Dinesh Sharma notes: “The idea of developing modern engineering education took shape after British rule ended. Nehru implemented the blueprint with the first IIT, established at Kharagpur in the eastern part of India in July 1951. Nehru wanted Indian engineering schools to be among the best in the world, so he enlisted some of the leading higher education institutions of the West to develop them. Seeking external technical and financial help was also inevitable as national resources were inadequate for the task. Help from different countries also meant a diversified engineering and technical education system would result. Politically, such an amalgamation fit with Nehru’s vision of nonalignment with any superpower.”
The first IIT at Kharagpur in West Bengal established in 1951 drew faculty members from the US, UK, Ireland, France, USSR, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Poland.
IIT Bombay – USSR
“For the second IIT at Bombay, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) arranged the donation of equipment and technical expertise from the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries in 1956,” Sharma writes.
According to the IIT-B website: “The institute received substantial assistance in the form of equipment and expert services from the USSR through the UNESCO from 1956 to 1973. It received 59 experts and 14 technicians from several reputed institutions in the USSR. The UNESCO also offered fellowships, numbering 27, for training Indian faculty members in the USSR. Under the bilateral agreement of 1965, the Government of USSR provided additional assistance to supplement the Aid Programme already received by the institute through UNESCO.”
IIT Madras – West Germany
The third IIT was set up in 1959 after the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) offered assistance to set up the institute during Prime Minister Nehru’s visit to the country in 1956. Subsequently, an Indo-German agreement was signed at Bonn in 1959.
According to the IIT-M website, “The first Indo-German Agreement provided for the services of German professors and 5 foremen, training facilities for 20 Indian faculty members and the supply of scientific and technical equipment for the establishment of the Central Workshop and 20 laboratories at IIT Madras.”
“The visit of Dr.Heinrich Lubke, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 1962 marked the beginning of the Indo-German Technical Assistance Program… 1974 witnessed the commencement of the fourth Indo-German Agreement with the objectives of setting up inter-university partnerships in R&D projects, strengthening of the industrial consultancy service and establishment of a post-graduate programme in Television Engineering.
“In 1976, an agreement was signed with the Government of France for collaboration and assistance to the Aeronautics Department. Five years later, the fifth Indo-German agreement was signed with the principal objectives of continuation of inter-university projects, strengthening of the Micro Processor Laboratory, Low Temperature Laboratory and High Polymer Laboratory and continuation of exchange visits.”
IIT Kanpur – USA
Established in 1959, this IIT was developed under a collaboration with American researchers as part of the Kanpur Indo-American Programme.
According to the IIT-K website, “During the period 1962-72, the Institute received technical assistance under KIAP from a consortium of nine leading Institutions of USA. Under the program, faculty members from these Institutions assisted the Institute in the setting up of the academic programs and development of laboratories for instruction as well as research.”
Sharma writes in his book, “Despite such varied international inputs, Nehru was still keen on direct involvement of MIT in development of IITs… MIT finally agreed to lead a consortium of nine US universities to help set up the Kanpur institute. A formal ten-year program called the Kanpur Indo-American Project (KIAP) was initiated in August 1961. Members of this consortium were California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Case Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, University of California at Berkeley, and University of Michigan.
“Three major components of this project were: consortium staff working under a program leader at Kanpur; IIT faculty receiving on-the-job experience in consortium institutes; and procurement of equipment, books, and journals not available in India.”
IIT Delhi – UK
This was the fifth IIT, established in 1961.
According to the institute’s website: “The Government of India negotiated with the British Government for collaboration in setting up an Institute of Technology at Delhi. The British Government agreed in principle to such a collaboration, but were inclined initially to start in a modest way. It was therefore agreed that a College of Engineering & Technology should be established at Delhi with their assistance. A trust called the Delhi Engineering College Trust was established with the help of the UK Government and the Federation of British Industries in London. Later H.R.H. Prince Philips, Duke of Edinburgh, during his visit to India, laid the foundation stone of the College at Hauz Khas on January 28,1959.”
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