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Green light to three IITs

New Delhi, May 30: The Centre has cleared the decks for new Indian Institutes of Technology in Orissa, Gujarat and Punjab to offer select courses starting this academic session, doubling the number of fresh IITs launched this year from three to six.

The human resource development ministry had earlier announced that IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan would start offering courses this year.

No more than two IITs have ever been started in a single year.

None of the six IITs to start classes from this year has any infrastructure of its own — buildings, laboratories, hostels, teachers — in place and the government is yet to finalise locations for five among them.

But political pressure to capitalise on the limited time available before the general elections may have propelled HRD minister Arjun Singh to push through the IITs in Orissa, Punjab and Gujarat, top ministry sources indicated.

At a meeting with higher education secretary R.P. Agrawal earlier this month, Arjun discussed the feasibility of allowing these three IITs to start classes this year.

The Centre has announced eight new IITs to be set up during the XIth Five Year Plan — in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, apart from Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra, Bihar and Rajasthan.

Each of the eight state governments have asked earlier to be allowed to start the institutes. Himachal, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab and Gujarat are each ruled by the Opposition NDA.

Arjun did not want to give the state governments an opportunity to accuse the Centre of stifling their state ambitions, a source close to the minister said.

“Once the minister’s desire to push these IITs was clear, we only needed to verify which states are ready. Orissa, Punjab and Gujarat were able to convince us,” said a senior official in the technical education wing of the HRD ministry.

Teams visited Orissa, Punjab and Gujarat over the past fortnight to scrutinise temporary arrangements to hold classes proposed by the state governments and try and identify locations where the institutes will finally come up.

Classes for the IIT in Gujarat will be held at the Vishwakarma Engineering College at Chandkheda on the outskirts of Ahmedabad this year, sources said.

The college campus already hosts an extension centre of IIT Powai.

Students admitted to IITs in Orissa and Punjab are likely to have to attend classes at their respective “mentor institutes” — IIT Kharagpur and IIT Delhi — as temporary arrangements are yet to be finalised, the sources said. IIT Powai is the “mentor” — tasked with hand-holding new institutes in its initial years — for the Gujarat institute.

Each of the three IITs will admit 120 students, like the new institites in Andhra, Bihar and Rajasthan. The Chennai, Guwahati and Kanpur IITs are their respective mentors.

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