Interview

Give us an IIT- Higher Education : Samir Dey, Minister of Higher Education, Orissa

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Orissa, usually considered as one of the backward and tribal dominated states, has the lowest human development index in the country. But the state like many others, participated in the race for liberal education and witnessed a massive quantitative expansion in its education system to get a separate position in the education movement of India. Taxila, Nalanda and Ratnagiri are some of the oldest universities in the world which belong to this state, and Orissa is still reckoned by these names for its standard in higher education. Today, some 13 universities and 40 technical and engineering institutions make Orissa, a marked destination for higher education and a hub of talent throwing up quality manpower in emerging subjects.

Samir Dey, the Minister of Higher Education, Orissa, speaks more about the higher education scenario of the state to Digital Learning. 

Higher education in Orissa also includes higher secondary education, which serves as a link between school education and university education. Apart from providing vocational education at higher secondary level to prepare students for self employment, the department also promotes professional education in government as well as private institutions besides dealing with a number of research and specialised institutions.

‘The state has entered into agreements with organisations like Vedant Foundation, ICFAI, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir Trust for establishment of world class universities. Vedanta plans for a large multi-disciplinary research organisation to begin enrolling students in 2008 and to model itself after campuses like Stanford University. Reliance industries has expressed its intention of establishing a new Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT). To attract more students to higher education sector, and for better employment opportunities, Government have been considering the proposal for opening professional courses mostly in self-financing mode, which include MBA, MCA, Bio-Technology, etc. National Institute for Scientific Education and Research (NISER) has been set up recently by the Department of Atomic Energy, with an aim to upgrade this into an Indian Institute of Science at par with IISc., Bangalore.’ The state, the Minister says, is equally serious for the quality and venturing into new subject areas, new application areas and new teaching and learning methodologies.

To ensure quality education, the state has made NAAC accredition mandatory for all the government, non-government colleges and universities. So far 116 colleges in Orissa have been accredited by NAAC. The state has provided INR35 crores to the universities for their infrastructure development from 12th Finance Commission Award, in spite of the state’s resource crunch.

The state has taken a big stride in the computer and engineering studies in last few years. ‘Computer education is encouraged with public-private partnership. For better administration, steps have been taken to connect colleges through e-Connectivity by providing computer software.’ The minister also seeks UGC’s contribution in terms of financing the e-Connectivity programme and to provide infrastructural support to ensure NAAC visit the rest of the colleges. But the requirement with high priority today is establishing an Indian Institution of Technology (IIT) in the state.

The state is planning to introduce some new subjects like Oceanography, Marine Engineering, etc, considering the long coastline in the state. ‘The vibrant growth in the industrial and technical sector provides enormous potential for industry and institutional linkages, which includes research development activities. Establishment of an IIT in Orissa will facilitate in intensifying this process that can facilitate in making the industry globally competitive’, the Minister says. There is also an effort made for upgrading the extension centre of IIT, Kharagpur into a full fledged IIT campus. Government is willing to provide 300 acres of land for the purpose.

The Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development had also announced its intention of creating two IITs in Orissa, one of which possibly was planned to have been accomplished by upgrading the prestigious University College of Engineering, Burla, under the 11th five year plan. Unfortunately, the ministry shifted the IIT to some other state.

‘The vibrant growth in the industrial and technical sector provides enormous potential for industry and institutional linkages, which includes research development activities. Establishment of an IIT in Orissa will facilitate in intensifying this process that can facilitate in making the industry globally competitive’

More than 20 iron and steel projects have already commenced production in the state during the year 2006. Orissa is in the steps of adding in excess of 70 million tones per annum (mtpa) capacity in steel making, 4 mtpa in alumina refining, 1 mtpa in aluminium, 15 mtpa capacity in petrochemical refining, 13000 MWs in power generation and 5 mtpa in cement manufacture. POSCO, Vedanta, Jindal, Tatas, Arcelon-Mittal, L &T, Infosys, Satyam, TCS, Wipro, and many such big industry players have already landed in the state. This long list creating a fresh demand-supply gap, probably necessitates the urgent establishment of an IIT. Dey pleas, ‘the new IIT in Orissa will help to supply quality engineers to these industries in the state.’

As of now, Orissa receives the lowest per capita investment of all 28 states from the central government towards human resource development. This has led to a sense of dissatisfaction all across the state.

However, government at the centre has submitted proposals to the Planning Commission for starting 20 new (Indian Institute of Information and technology (IIITs) so as to cover each major State. Planning Commission too has suggested that these could be considered under the Public-Private Participation mode. The Centre has sanctioned nine more full-fledged polytechnic institutes to meet the increasing need of technical manpower both inside and outside the state. The nine institutes will be set up during the Eleventh Plan starting from 2007-08. Each institute will get a central assistance of INR 14 crore up-front for infrastructure development and recurring expenditure for five years.

As the state stands poised for the big leap on both industrial and educational front, especially in the sector of higher education, a concerted effort in meeting the challenges would help carrying the legacy that the state has inherited, to a new future. In order to meet the demand-supply gap and to meet the quality needs, nurturing the idea of new quality institutions like IIT can ensure a developed Orissa.

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