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Call for girls-only IIT, and at ‘home’

New Delhi, March 11: President Pratibha Patil has asked the government to set up an Indian Institute of Technology exclusively for girls.

She has also insisted that it be built in Amravati, her former Lok Sabha constituency. Amravati is in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha, which has seen a spate of suicides by debt-ridden farmers.

None of the country’s top institutes of higher education like the IITs or the Indian Institutes of Management caters only to women. Nor is there any central university meant only for women.

In a letter to the human resource development ministry dated March 7, Rashtrapati Bhavan has said the IIT in Amravati should be set up as soon as possible. A project proposal was attached with the request.

Pratibha’s husband Devisingh Shekhawat hails from Amravati and was once mayor there. She herself represented it in the Lok Sabha between 1991 and 1996.

The ministry, despite reservations among some officials, is examining the proposal, sources said. The letter — a copy is with The Telegraph — has suggested that the new institute be named after Indira Gandhi.

Pratibha had famously managed the former Prime Minister’s kitchen when her son Sanjay Gandhi died in a plane crash in 1980. Pratibha had gone to jail in 1977 after protesting the arrest of Indira Gandhi, India’s first female head of government.

The IIT proposal has been prepared by Kamal Singh, vice-chancellor of Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University.

“Vidarbha’s history of farmer plight is a reason why the government should set up an IIT here. It is no reason to deny the region an IIT,” Singh said today.

The proposal suggests that the new IIT offer only “integrated” courses, where students fresh out of school can get postgraduate degrees after five years.

The existing seven IITs have some five-year integrated courses, but Singh said she was in favour of making them mandatory across all streams.

Statistics on IIT recruitment have shown that a larger section of postgraduate students choose work in India over foreign jobs, unlike undergraduate students.

“I have a simple motto — catch them young for indigenous India,” Singh said.

But the Amravati proposal might not have a smooth run. The ministry is caught in a row over the selection of locations for IITs planned during the eleventh five-year plan.

An IIT had been proposed in Rajasthan but the Centre turned down the state’s request to set it up in Kota. It wants another site.

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