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Besu upgrade closer to reality

The Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu) moved a step closer to becoming an Institute of National Importance (INI) as the Lok Sabha passed a bill to upgrade the 157-year-old institution on Wednesday.

The National Institute of Technology Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was passed by voice vote without any discussion. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha for passage.

If the Upper House passes the bill, Besu will be converted to an Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST).

Once the new status is formalised, the Centre will provide Rs 592 crore to the Shibpur institute over five years. Around Rs 300 crore from the grant will be spent on infrastructure.

Besu vice-chancellor Ajoy Kumar Ray told Metro that the institute does not have a well-equipped auditorium and its laboratories need immediate revamping.

The university at present has 69 vacancies for teaching posts. Teachers and staff at Besu, who are at present paid according to the state government pay scale, will enjoy a 20 to 25 per cent hike in salary once the varsity is upgraded.

But academicians pointed out that becoming a central institute does not guarantee success. “Visva-Bharati is a central university, but it lags behind some of the state universities academically,” a Jadavpur University teacher said.

Members of the city’s academic circles felt Besu would benefit only if it was able to break free of political shackles. “Politically-biased” recruitment has plagued Besu and robbed it of its status as a seat of excellence.

Besu is the first state university to be considered for upgrade to an institution of national importance. There are at present over 50 institutes of national importance, including 16 IITs, 30 NITs ( National Institutes of Technology), five IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), the AIIMS in Delhi and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh.

“The upgrade is welcome. But it will take a long time for the institute to break free of its past,” said a former Besu teacher.

“We hope merit gets its due and prevails over politics,” said another professor.

At the height of Left rule in Bengal, almost all decisions concerning academic institutions were taken at the CPM state headquarters and party allegiance was considered more imporant than merit.

Central institutes have traditionally performed better in the state because of the immunity they enjoy from political intervention.

There is scope for manipulation in the recruitment process at central universities as well but, as a source in an IIT said, IITs and IIMs have followed a legacy of not succumbing to any kind of pressure when it comes to recruitment of faculty, be it from an individual, a political lobby or the government.