We actually need more IITs

Jul 07 2014, 20:52 IST
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SummaryIIT as brand must be preserved and nurtured. We should take all possible steps to ensure that the new IITs we set up become the greatest assets of our country

The recent announcement by HRD minister Smriti Irani to set up IITs in each state is welcome as it gives a big boost to higher technical education in the country.

Apprehensions expressed in some quarters (and even by some IITians) are ill-founded and biased, reflecting a ‘third-class compartment’ mentality, wherein the crowd after struggling to enter prevents others to get in. Lakhs of motivated candidates write JEE seeking admission to less than 10,000 IIT seats, while top 1 lakh of them would be equally intelligent deserving tier-1 institutions comprising IITs, NITs, etc, and qualify for world-class education. Thus, it is imperative to increase their numbers and start more IITs.

The above proposal is easily doable since only two major states, Karnataka and Kerala, are deprived of IITs and establishing only two more IITs in these states (as an immediate step) in addition to the existing 16 should not be a big challenge. When we can have 25 NITs and about 50 central universities, the opposition to new IITs that add to the quality of higher technical education is unreasonable. Both the above states are educationally conscious and getting quality faculty to IITs established here will not be all that difficult compared to many of the new IITs that suffer from problems of connectivity and ambience. The location of IITs in these states must be within a two-hour drive from a major airport to attract best faculty and visiting experts. Any other remote place decided due to ‘political pull’ will be disastrous and investment will go to the drain.

Location of present IITs is geographically skewed as bulk of them are in the northern belt (almost in all states, with UP having two and the rest—Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam—one each). Other major states—Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat—have IITs. Thus, setting up IITs in Karnataka and Kerala will rectify this imbalance. Converting ISM Dhanbad into an IIT will cater to Jharkhand. Next in line could be Seemandhra, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, J&K and the North-East. We must ensure that no two IITs are spaced within 300 km to ensure proper geographic spread.

Resource crunch is not a critical issue as there are enough funds. Ashok Thakur, education secretary, in a recent article mentions that R1.25 lakh crore is the annual turnover of private coaching centres, which is more than the annual budget of the government for higher education. Indian parents spend over

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