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2 science institutes, one IIM: Wrapped in red tape, plan kept in deep freeze

Kolkata and Pune premier institutes plan to start from temporary premises, with borrowed faculty

Written by Shubhajitroy | New Delhi |
May 29, 2006 1:15:31 am

While HRD Minister Arjun Singh works on his Cabinet note on how to increase seats and upgrade infrastructure in premier educational institutions as per the Government’s OBC quota formula, chances are the note may skip his Ministry’s dismal record on this task.

Two premier institutes of science education, announced in March last year, are at least three years away. And eight months after it was decided that there will be a new Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Shillong, the project is yet to be cleared by the Finance Ministry.

This assumes significance given that seat increase is being used as a sweetener to the bitter quota pill despite a chorus of criticism on the “crude” manner in which the decision has been taken. C N R Rao, the PM’s chief scientific advisor, told The Indian Express this week how he had not even been consulted before the “stupendous” decision was taken.

Ironically, it was Rao who headed the panel that in March 2005 decided to set up two Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs), in Kolkata and Pune, at the cost of Rs 500 crore each.

The goal is ambitious: two high-quality research institutions exclusively offering Bachelor’s and Master’s programme in sciences to attract the best of 10+2 talent. And direct PhD programmes in frontier areas of science research. Student strength: 2,000 over the next five years, with 200-strong faculty.

But consider the progress:

Neither institute has a permanent campus nor permanent faculty.

Despite this, the HRD Ministry is trying to push through the first batch from this July in “makeshift and temporary locations”.

In Kolkata, for example, classes for the first batch of 70-odd students, selected via the IIT entrance exam, will be held in the Kolkata campus of IIT Kharagpur.

With no hostel ready, students will stay in nearby campus of National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training and Research (NITTTR) at Salt Lake.

“We have just started the process of acquiring land (200 acres) in Kalyani (a Kolkata suburb), and hope to complete the modalities soon,” said IIT (Kharagpur) director Shishir K Dube, who is the project-director for setting up IISER (Kolkata).

Its counterpart in Pune, too, is in a hurry to start the first batch in August at the “temporary location” in National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune. “About 100 acres, adjacent to the NCL, have been acquired recently. But no work on the construction of the campus has started yet,” sources said.

Classes for the first Pune batch will initially start in a two-storied building at NCL’s Innovation Park. “Construction of new buildings will take nearly three years to complete,” sources said. NCL (Pune) director Dr S Sivaram, who is the project director for IISER (Pune), was unavailable for comment.

No permanent faculty have been hired yet. Said Dube: “We will get faculty members from various institutes in Kolkata, like the Jadavpur University, IIT (Kharagpur) and S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences to teach the students.” Pune, too, will draw faculty from NCL and local colleges.

So how long will it take? “Only after we acquire land in Kalyani, will we invite tenders and architects and then we will know whether it will take two or three years to construct the campus,” Dube said.

That’s not the only hurdle. The two institutes are to be formed by establishing a registered society which has to be followed by an Act of Parliament declaring them as “Institutes of National Importance.” Progress on drafting that law? No one in the Ministry is willing to hazard a guess.

For the IIM in Shillong, the news is worse. On June 15, 2004, Arjun Singh had called a meeting of North-Eastern states where it was decided to set up the seventh IIM in the region. A three-member panel, formed that November, comprised Secretary (Higher Education), Secretary (Development of North-Eastern Region) and Indian Institute of Management (Calcutta) Director. It chose Shillong.

The Rs 100-crore project has not yet been cleared by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) of the Union Ministry and land is yet to be acquired although the Meghalaya government had identified the 100 acres. with Rituparna Bhuyan, Pune

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