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Shashi sees education as Maoist antidote

New Delhi, Nov. 2: Shashi Tharoor today suggested that Maoism might spread in the country if young people were not provided with skills training and job opportunities.

The junior human resource development (HRD) minister said education, and the opportunities emerging from it, was the answer to the problem of Maoism, which has gripped swathes of central and eastern India.

Besides, providing access to quality education and skills training is the only way to realise the country’s demographic dividend, he added.

“There is a large youth population in the country. If you get the education and training part right, we would then be able to equip the youths to take advantage of what the 21st century has to offer,” Tharoor said.

“But if we don’t get it right, the danger is something like what we have seen with the Maoists — frustrated, unemployed young men picking up the gun.”

Tharoor said he would focus on ensuring quality education and access to education for all.

The Congress MP from Kerala supported the longstanding call for an IIT in his home state, a demand he had pushed as a lawmaker. But the HRD ministry had initially said there was no immediate plan for one since Kerala already had several central institutions, such as the central university in Kasargod and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Thiruvananthapuram.

This year, however, the ministry drew up a proposal for an IIT in Palakkad and another centrally funded technical institution in the state. It sent the proposals, along with two others for central varsities in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, to the Planning Commission for in-principle approval.

The plan panel, however, rejected all four proposals in July saying the thrust of the 12th Plan would be on consolidating (rather than expanding) the higher education system. If any expansion has to take place, it may be done by scaling up the capacities of the existing institutions.

The commission, however, added that a new central university or any other central institution could be set up in exceptional circumstances. It asked the ministry to develop criteria to define “exceptional circumstances” and justify why the four proposals should come under this provision.

“I do not know why the proposal (for an IIT in Kerala) was rejected by the Planning Commission. A compelling case can be made for it,” Tharoor said. He added that Kerala was an educationally conscious state with good infrastructure.

“It will be a suitable location to host an IIT. You will get good faculty,” Tharoor said.

He said his ministry was carrying out many programmes and schemes and so he would get a lot of work.

Tharoor, a writer and former international civil servant, was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 and has already served as junior foreign minister. He studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the US.