With Smriti Irani taking charge of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, among the key items on the agenda are a set of new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
It is learnt that in her first meeting with the Education Ministry officials, Irani explored the possibility of setting new IITs especially in states which do not have one. There are 16 IITs now — with eight set up in 2009.
As many as eight states do not have an IIT and Kerala and Karnatka have been prime contenders for one. The other states without an IIT are Jharkhand, Uttarkhand, Goa, Sikkim and Chhatisgarh. While an IIT has already been promised for Seemandhra, there is also an argument for more IITs in the North East.
However, setting up new IITs is not exactly an idea that the bureaucracy at HRD ministry will welcome. The ministry officials are learnt to have explained to Irani that shortage of both faculty and funds will make it difficult to set up any more new IITs.
The ministry, in fact, has been having a tough time with the new IITs set up in 2009 with availability of land and faculty proving major hurdles. The view in the ministry is that any new IITs should be set up only on the condition that land is made available and infrastructure readied before a new IIT is made operational.
Irani also singled out two other ideas delineated in the BJP manifesto — to set up a National E-library and a Central University of Himalayan Technology. While these will take longer to materialise, Irani’s first few decisions as HRD minister are likely to include a salary hike for over 25 lakh cook-cum-helpers serving the Mid-Day Meal programme across the country.
The HRD minister’s views on the appointment of Vice Chancellors to 14 Central Universities — pending from the preceding government — will also be closely watched. Senior BJP leader and former HRD minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi had written earlier this month to President Pranab Mukherjee demanding that the appointment process be left to the new government.
Irani’s stand on the Four-Year programme at Delhi University at a time when the BJP students’ wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is agitating against it, will also be significant.
The first of HRD ministry’s proposals to go to Cabinet will be a proposal to link the cooking cost to the wholesale price index to counter the effects of inflation on the programme and to double the honorarium to cook-cum-helpers from Rs 1,000 per month for a period of 10 months to Rs 2,000 per month for all 12 months.