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Court stay on science hub 'shift'
- Petitioner smells conspiracy by Left

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 8: Orissa High Court today stayed the UPA government's decision to shift the proposed National Institute of Science (NIS) from Bhubaneswar to Calcutta,

'We direct a stay on the shifting of the NIS from Bhubaneswar to any other place in the eastern region,' the court said today.

The directive came in response to a public interest litigation filed by Prasanta Kumar Das of the State Public Interest Protection Council. Das had filed the PIL on August 29 alleging that the Left parties had hatched a conspiracy to 'snatch' the national institute from Bhubaneswar.

The court also sent a notice to the University Grants Commission and adjourned hearing for a month.

On December 9, 2003, the then Union human resource development minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, had announced the setting up of four centres of the National Institute of Science at Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Pune and Allahabad.

The Orissa government had assured a 75-acre plot for the proposed institute, which was to cost Rs 100 crore, near Utkal University here.

However, on September 28 this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the setting up of two Indian Institutes of Science for Education and Research (IISER) at Pune and Calcutta. Singh was scheduled to lay the foundation stone for the institute on October 30 in Calcutta, but had to cut short his programme in view of the serial bomb blasts in Delhi.

In his petition, Das contended that as the Left Front was a critical partner of the UPA government, it had conspired to shift the proposed institute to Calcutta by a change in name. 'The UPA government's decision was motivated as the communists want the institute in Calcutta in view of the Assembly elections in West Bengal next year,' he said. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has also written a letter to the Centre expressing his displeasure.

Apart from the PIL, non-resident Oriyas are running a sustained campaign demanding the establishment of a national institute of science in Bhubaneswar.

The campaigners argue that the state does not have any reputed autonomous science and technology institutes funded by the Centre and has often been a victim of negligible educational investment by the Centre.

'We are not against IISERs in Calcutta and Pune. We just want the Centre to undo the injustice being done to Orissa by not taking away from it an announced and planned for NIS/IISER,' said Chitta Baral of Arizona State University, who is leading a campaign in support of the institute in Bhubaneswar.

In his letter to the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Baral wrote that the aim of the NIS that Joshi had announced in 2003 was the same as that of the proposed IISERs. 'Thus, NIS and IISER, though they differ in their names; as proposed institutions, both refer to the same concept,' he said.

'Perhaps, the other announced locations ' Chennai and Allahabad ' are not as much concerned' but for Bhubaneswar and Orissa, this is a matter of survival as Orissa does not have a central university or an institute of national importance like the Indian Institute of Technology or the Indian Statistical Institute,' Baral, who has launched a campaign through e-mail, argued.

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