By Rahul Maganti:
The early years of the 1960’s saw the formation of Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 which declared them as “institutions of national importance”, established through the special acts of Indian Parliament. In short, the Indian Institutes of Technology’s were set up right after independence in 1951. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of Independent India, was the pioneer and architect of the whole episode of IIT’s. He championed the cause because he believed in two visions. The first being to impart scientific temper and outlook into the society and he chose the educational institutions to start with. The scientific approach and temper are, or should be, a way of life, a process of thinking, a method of acting and associating with our fellow citizens. The essence of Nehru’s fixation on scientific temper was this–a questioning mind, pushing the limits, not structured by narrow and limited concerns, not afraid to be inconsistent with changing facts and circumstances but always proceeding on the basis of objective realities, not a prisoner of any dogma, and not a product of indoctrination of superstitions. The second was to empower this young nation technologically and scientifically. To make the country self reliant in technology. To encourage entrepreneurship and starting of public enterprises in public sector, thus providing employment to many engineers. Thereby were erected the fine monuments of India, representing India’s urges, India’s future in the making. This picture seems to be symbolical of the changes that are coming to India.
Ms. Smriti Irani, after having been appointed as the HRD minister, has taken some very quick decisions, amongst which setting up a few more new IIT’s, possibly one in every state is on the radar. What’s more ironic is that she has received huge amount of criticism for probably the only right decision she has taken, and she is left uncriticized for all the wrong decisions she has taken, ex: Saffronisation of Education.
Why this should be done?
When IIT’s were first set up, the idea was to provide world class education in Science and Technology to the people of this country, who have reeled under two centuries of oppression by the imperialist British rule. We were technologically dependent on countries like USSR and other European Countries and even today, we are far away from becoming self-sufficient. Higher Education with a certain bit of credibility will be available to the masses (more people) if this actually shapes into reality. This would surely be the best bet, keeping in mind the huge demographic dividend that India will be subjected to in the next 10 years which will go down the slope by 2035. To make the most of the demographic dividend from 2025 – 2035, just like China did, our utmost and primary focus should be on primary education, followed by higher education.
Can this be done the right away?
This is a more sensible question to ask. The amount of GDP we spend on Education is less than 4% and on Science and Research is 0.97%. If we spend such meager amounts on the Education Sector, how do we get the money to improve the existing IIT’s and set up new ones? Indian Govt. spends one tenth on all the IIT’s combined, of what the US Govt. spends on MIT alone. How do you imagine IIT’s to top the QS rankings without proper support from the Govt?
So, what is the solution?
Yes, there is an actual need for the Govt. to come up with more IIT’s to support higher credible education. But, only after increasing the funds to Education to atleast 6% of the GDP from around 4% and in S&T and Research from 0.97% to atleast 3%. While this will solve a major part of the problem, other problems like recruiting qualified PhD students as professors is a problem which can be solved only through proper dedicated and committed implementation of existing policies of supporting higher education through scholarships.
You might ask me where the money would come from. I feel, it is a matter of priorities. Rather than developing Nuclear Power Plants which are deemed unsafe, rather than tax relaxation toÂ the corporate sector to the tune of two lakh crores a year and scams and black money involving lakhs and crores of rupees. To right away start new IIT’s is not the solution, not without fixing the leaks down the tap. Those need to be addressed first.
Why is there an opposition to this move?
One of the common argument is this – “By increasing their count, we will only dilute their brand value and pour water on the hard work put in by the previous graduates and post graduates in securing degrees from these prestigious institutions.” This kind of absurd understanding comes from looking at the IIT’s as a tool to prove their caliber rather than as centers of technological learning which will churn out engineers and technocrats which, in turn, will help us make a self-sufficient nation in terms of Technology and Scientific Research.
Sociologically speaking, the elite class always oppresses the working class (proletariat) either through violence or through formulating the laws according to their whims and fancies. Any attempt by the proletariat to reclaim their rights is strictly quelled down by repression and violence by institutions of the state. The people who have made it into IITs now have crossed the line and got the tag of the IIT Brand, which they feel, will lose its sheen if the number of institutions increase. These people who are now voicing their opinions against setting up further more IITs have already used these IITs as pedestals and have reached pinnacles in their lives. What makes them insecure is the feeling that, if IITs are increased, there would be a lot more people like them and that they are not unique anymore in the world. So, to substantially have power, both economic and social, these people who apparently have intellectual capital would not love to lose the economic and social capital the IITs give them.