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Ambani IT school on fast track

Calcutta, Feb. 10: Bengal will get its first private infotech university in 18 months flat, courtesy Anil Ambani.

Two days after being anointed chairman of Reliance Communications Ventures, Anil today signed an agreement with the Bengal government for setting up an IT institute (deemed university) in Kalyani.

'The project will be a fast-track one, typical of my father's style of functioning. Our IT institute in Gujarat took around two years to come up. This one at Kalyani should be ready in 18 months. Our initial outlay in the project will be around Rs 100 crore,' Anil said after a meeting with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers' Buildings.

Bhattacharjee said his government had been in talks with Ambanis for a long time.

'We're selling them 50 acres ' they'll do the rest. We need good professionals in the field of IT. The institute is being named Dhirubhai Ambani University of Information Technology and Communications in memory of his father,' the chief minister said.

Anil recounted the late Reliance patriarch's 'special love and affection' for Jyoti Basu.

'My father would be delighted to know that my first venture after taking over this company has been in Bengal. India needs good IT professionals ' this is my first endeavour in that direction,' he said after signing the pact.

Academic activities at the institute near Haringhata will begin from July 2007. It will offer degrees at bachelor, post-graduate and doctorate levels, higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty said.

The Dhirubhai Ambani Education Trust will run the institute and include one or two government nominees.

Chakraborty called the Left Front government's green signal to a private university 'an exceptional case'.

He added: 'We have proposals from other parties for setting up universities, but our government is yet to decide on them. We made an exception for Reliance as it's planning a model university of international standards. It is a high-profile company having the financial strength to back its proposals, which is important for us. In addition to Rs 100 crore, the company is planning to invest more at later stages.'

The minister refuted reports that the government had refused permission to a university that Ramakrishna Mission had proposed to build. 'We didn't refuse them permission. We were asking them to include some modern subjects in addition to traditional ones. In the meantime, they got clearance from the Centre. Our no-objection certificate is not mandatory ' the main clearance comes from Delhi,' Chakraborty said.

In its last party congress in Delhi, the CPM had decided not to allow private varsities.

Anil said he would also consider favourably a proposal for a knowledge and IT park placed by the higher education department. 'Let our officials examine it in detail. Then we will get back to the government,' he told the chief minister during the meeting.

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