Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Open Letter to honorable PM, HRD Minister, Planning Commission and National Knowledge Commission

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Honorable PM of India, New Delhi, India, Email: pmosb@pmo.nic.in
Smt. Sonia Gandhi, President: INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, Email: aicc@congress.org.in
Mr. Arjun Singh, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Email: arjuns@sansad.nic.in
Dr. Anbumani Ramdoss, Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Email: hfm@alpha.nic.in
Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Email: dch@nic.in
Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar, Member of the Planning Commission, Email: b.mungekar@nic.in
Shri Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Orissa, Email: cmo@ori.nic.in
Mr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, Email: spitroda@knowledgecommission.org
Dr. P.M. Bhargava, Vice Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, Email: pmbhargava@knowledgecommission.org
Dr. Ashok Ganguly, Member, National Knowledge Commission, Email: aganguly@knowledgecommission.org
Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Member, National Knowledge Commission, Email: jghosh@knowledgecommission.org
Dr. Deepak Nayyar, Member, National Knowledge Commission, Email: dnayyar@knowledgecommission.org
Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Member, National Knowledge Commission, Email: nnilekani@knowledgecommission.org
Shree Somnath Chaterjee, Speaker of LokSabha, India, Email: lokmail@sansad.nic.in

Sub: Establishment of new IIT and a central university in the unprivileged locations.

Dear Esteemed Sirs,
Beside many other focus areas, one of the main goals of the established “National Knowledge Commission” is to provide equal right and access to knowledge for every citizen. However, for citizens who live in rural, remote and backward regions of India it is always unprivileged in accessing higher quality education that results to (healthy) knowledge. Looking back to our 59 years of history, NOT a single high quality national institute like IIT, IIM, IISc, IISER etc was ever established in an unprivileged and backward region.

Establishment of national institutes of higher learning in the country was generally politically motivated. In a fair case, institute locations were chosen based on East, West, North, South, Central and, North-East region of the country where population of the state and larger cities were under consideration totally discounting geographical need and accessibility to other remote and disadvantageous part of the nation. Take an example of Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region of Orissa. Since independence neither a central university nor a national institute was ever established in the region, though it covers 30 % of the total land area of the state and for last 45 years it is regularly being scrutinized for its backwardness by the media, and social and political leaders. Not even a single IIT, IIM, IISc, IISER or Central University is located within 700km radius of KBK region. Incidentally, Orissa, one of the poorest and tribal states of the country was never funded by HRD ministry for an IIT, IIM, IISc, IISER or a central university type institution. The state and specially KBK region was repeatedly being ignored by the central government while making institute of national importance.

Countries like USA, Germany, Japan, UK, Belgium, Netherland, Australia, France, Switzerland etc. have many high standard national institutes of higher learning in rural and semi urban smaller towns. Some of them are internationally well claimed, such as, National Institute of Natural Science Okazaki, Cornell University, Forschungszentrum Juelich, Katholique University Leuven, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign etc. Towns in KBK region such as Bhawanipatna (Kalahandi Dist), Balangir (Balangir Dist) and, Koraput (Koraput Dist) are large enough compared to cities like Leuven, Juelich, Cornell or Urbana-Champaign to host an international claimed institute. So I do not see any problem with these towns to host one or more IIT, IIM, IISER and a central university. In fact each of these towns has potent to host a national institution. The distance between Kharagpur (IIT) and Kolakata (proposed IIT branch, IISER and IIM) is 250km (that of IIT Delhi and IISER Chandigarh is 260km), where as between Koraput and Bhawanipatna is 280km. The distance between IIT Kanpur and IIT Delhi is 408km where as between Bhawanipatan and Bhubaneswar (state capital without having IIT, IIM, IISc or central university) is 480km. The distance between Bangalore (IISc, IIM) and Chennai (IIT) is 330km where as distance between Balangir and Koraput is 380km.
[One could compare distribution of institute of national importance within 700km radius from KBK region (an area of 47,646 squarekm, which is 30% of total area of Orissa or 3.7% of total area of India, larger than the size of Haryana or Kerala, or equivalent to the size of Punjab) with that of locations of such institutions in cities corridor like Mumbai-Pune at 163km, Delhi-Chandigarh at 240km, Bangalore-Chennai at 330km, Lucknow-Kanpur at 77km, Guwahati-Shillong at 100km, and Bhopal (proposed IISER)-Indore at 186km. The nearest central university from KBK region is Central University Hyderabad which is 700km away from Koraput. KBK region could be the only place in the nation from where none of the IIT, IIM, IISc, IISERs or central university is located within 700km.]

Normally people do hesitate to live and work in a remote and disadvantageous part of the nation rather preferring cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata. Even the Orissa state government feels the similar wind from the officers assigned in the KBK region. So, opposition and problems like infrastructure and communication were/are expected to often be raised by few of our academicians and decision makers against the unprivileged region for a national institute, however, establishment of such institution itself would solve many of these infrastructure related problems (indeed at present all of these major towns in KBK are connected by national highway and have rail links) and would force many national level academicians, researchers and students to work in this region chicken feeding its current outlook.

A recent proposal of establishing an Indira Gandhi National Tribal University at Amarkantak is a healthy and welcome development by HRD ministry. However, such attention should also be focused while establishing IIT, IIM or IISc/IISER in the country. Recently, HRD ministry already has made a stark state wise uneven distribution of institutes of national importance. Cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore etc. were/are often given higher priority (so, were/are the respective states) by literally neglecting many other backward parts of the nation like KBK region and their states.

An irrational decision is also being taken while making newly funded institutions like Indian Institute of Public Health. KBK region has higher malaria mortality rate and its state Orissa has highest mortality in the country of malaria, one of the deadliest diseases in the world, nevertheless, the state is totally being overlooked for such an institution by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

Despite the fact that our honorable prime minister, HRD minister, Health minister, president of congress party, chief-minister of Orissa and, chairpersons as well as members of the planning commission & knowledge commission are much learnt and knowledgeable individuals, rural and unprivileged India is again being ignored while establishing higher education institutions. Irrespective of caste, creed, geographical location, region and religion every citizen should have equal access to higher quality education and knowledge. We must remember that these backward regions have potential to generate great innovator and national leader of our time, our esteemed Dr Sam Pitroda is one of the examples, who was raised in a small town of Titilagarh in KBK region.

I hope, our honorable sirs, will kindly look into this matter for KBK region while establishing new national institutions like IIT, IIM, and central University in the country.

Thank you and with best regards

Yours sincerely

Digambara Patra

1. http://orissawatch.org/
2. http://kbkcentral.blogspot.com/
3. http://newiits.blogspot.com/

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