Calcutta, Oct. 27: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s drive to turn Bengal into a knowledge-driven economy went a few steps forward today with Manmohan Singh’s cabinet giving the nod for a Rs 500-crore institute of science education and research to be set up here and the announcement in Calcutta of a private management institute.
The Centre-funded institute of science had been announced earlier, but the formal clearance came today. A similar institute will come up in Pune.
The institutes will run programmes in physical and chemical sciences, mathematics, material sciences, environment and earth system sciences, life science and computer science. The institutes are likely to start the courses from the 2006-07 academic session ' Singh will lay the foundation stone of the Calcutta entity on Sunday.
While the institute will be the biggest addition to the state’s educational establishment since possibly the Indian Institute of Management, the chief minister has several other plans ' though far smaller in nature ' up his sleeve.
One of these was unveiled when he announced at the Indian Chamber of Commerce that RPG Enterprises would set up a management institute on its three-acre plot on Judges Court Road. The All India Management Institute, Delhi, will collaborate with the group.
“We are targeting the academic session of 2007-08. We are confident of completing the project within that,” Sanjiv Goenka, vice-chairman of the group, said.
Bhattacharjee said the city needed world-class business schools. “We have only one in Joka (IIM).”
His government is trying to draw private capital into higher education. Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty said talks with Mukesh and Anil Ambani and the city-based B.P. Poddar and Shrachi groups were being held on setting up institutes of higher education.
“Our high performers are focussed on areas like bio-technology, bio-sciences, nano-technology, nano-sciences and IT which call for large investments in building up institutions with world-class laboratories. In the present context and times, such a task is beyond us (government).”
Bhattacharjee is personally negotiating with the Ambani brothers ' must be separately now ' who have offered to set up an information and communication technology institute, a fully private university and a centre for Chinese studies.
Also on Bhattacharjee’s radar are a medical college, a hospital and a college exclusively for teaching bio-sciences and a women’s college offering courses in the emerging areas. Besides, there are proposals for setting up law schools, business studies centres, dental colleges and nursing institutes.
The government’s current initiative is overlaid with political implications. It suggests that Bhattacharjee, after encountering resistance from the orthodox elements in the CPM to the entry of private capital into higher education, has begun to carry the party with him on the contentious issue.
“Many of us have been opposed to the idea (privatisation of higher education) for quite some time, but we can no longer harbour such opposition because of the growing demand,” said Shyamapada Pal, a member of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education.
“We have been feeling that the changing times call for adoption of a pragmatic policy; It is good that we have taken the initiative at the right moment. And it is good big professional groups like Reliance and RPG are responding.”
Besides initiating a search for suitable land, the government has begun to prepare the required legislation that will eventually pave the way for a private university.
“We intend to place it in the Assembly next year,” Chakraborty said.