Academic dreams are meant to remain dreams in land-starved Jharkhand. And the latest casualty is the proposed Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Ranchi district.
In a major setback to scholastic ambitions, the HRD ministry is learnt to have refused point-blank to ink any agreement on the cradle following the state’s failure to acquire adequate land for the elite project.
Jharkhand’s IT department bosses had planned to start IIIT’s first session from a temporary campus by the middle of this year. But, highly placed sources maintained that without a formal understanding with the Centre on funds flow, it could not be done.
The impasse is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon in the absence of land and in the wake of the upcoming general elections.
An IIIT for the state was sanctioned in 2011. Two subsequent years remained tangled in red tape and Nagri land stalemate. After a serious acre hunt in Namkum and other places in close proximity of capital Ranchi, the state zeroed in on Sanga mouza of Kanke block. In November 2013, the Centre cleared the state’s detailed project report for the Rs 128-crore IIIT complex.
To fulfil central guidelines, Jharkhand also identified Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Motors as private partners.
Incidentally, the Centre’s steering committee — headed by the Union HRD secretary — had also put another rider while approving the project. It had said that the state must have at least 50 acres in its possession before it can start IIIT classes.
Jharkhand is falling short by 13 acres.
“We had agreed to what the Union government said because we were sanguine of sorting out the issue in a couple of months. But, we have only managed to get a little more than 37 acres in Sanga mouza,” said a senior IT official. “We are in a fix now. Central officials have even threatened to pull out the project from Jharkhand because other states are willing and resourceful in terms of land,” he conceded.
The official pointed out that a month ago, they had sent a requisition to organisers of the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for the first batch of 120 students.
“But, without an agreement with the Centre, our request is like an orphan,” he added.
Of the total project cost, the Centre’s, the state’s and the private partners’ shares are 50 per cent, 35 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. Deputy director of IT S.V. Sahu, who is overseeing the project, underscored that money wasn’t a deterrent at any level. Land is.
“Private partners have assured us of full monetary support. We have some land in Sanga. Earlier this month, we transferred around Rs 1 crore to the Ranchi district administration for acquiring more riyati land. We haven’t received any reply yet,” Sahu said.
Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey contended that just sending money for land acquisition did not help. “I had sought a formal requisition with various details during our last interaction (with IT officials). I believe we are yet to receive a properly formatted proposal,” he said.
Sahu contested the claim. “All of it has been done long ago. The district administration seems to be buying time,” he said.
The deputy director, however, held out hope, even if on the basis of a hypothesis. “If we meet the requirement (of 50 acres), we will invite a technical team from the Centre for site verification. After that the agreement will be done. If we get land tomorrow, in a week’s time, we can finish all formalities,” he said.