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Twin-IIT offer leaves Bengal cold

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MITA MUKHERJEE   |   Calcutta   |   Published 01.09.05, 12:00 AM

Calcutta, Sept. 1: Bengal may be changing in many ways but the fresh winds have left one area well alone ? education, where the CPM is loath to cut control.

The state has the rare opportunity to host as many as three Indian institutes of technology, adding two to Kharagpur by accepting Delhi’s offer to upgrade Jadavpur University and Bengal University of Engineering Science (formerly BE College) to IITs.

Five other institutions in different parts of the country complete the list of seven that are eligible for the upgrade. But while other state governments have started lobbying Delhi, Bengal has not moved.

“It is not that we are against the Centre’s proposal, but we have to thoroughly examine the conditions laid down by the Centre before accepting it,” said higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty.

The Union human resource development ministry had asked the two institutions to present project reports on conversion to IITs in Delhi on July 27.

Officials of Jadavpur and BE College, as it is better known, made their presentations, but have not found the support from the Bengal government their counterparts from the other five institutions have from their respective state administrations.

“The two institutions are now examining every aspect of the (Centre’s) proposal. The government will take a decision after receiving their reports,” Chakraborty said.

The statement may or may not be an indication of absence of enthusiasm for the offer, but observers draw attention to the fact that IIT status will mean control slipping out of state hands into the Centre’s.

Funding will be entirely by the Centre and, hence, recruitment of teachers and admission of students will be Delhi’s prerogative. The Centre has so far only made the offer and not elaborated on the control structure.

Bengal’s worst kept secret is the influence exercised on the education system from Alimuddin Street, the CPM headquarters.

Several academics are reminded of the late B.C. Roy’s “historic blunder” when as chief minister he turned down Jawaharlal Nehru’s proposal to establish the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Calcutta. It went to Delhi instead.

“History will repeat itself if the present government fails to see things in the proper perspective,” said one academic.

“The Centre may offer the conversion opportunity to other states even though their institutes are not as good as Jadavpur and BE College,” said a senior teacher at one of the institutions.

After Benaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University, BE College and Jadavpur are third and fourth in the conversion pecking order.

A central team will visit the city soon for an inspection of the two institutions where the authorities have kept their enthusiasm alive despite the lack of any sign of interest at Writers’ Buildings.

“We are passing through a stage where we need to produce global engineers and not mere graduates for Bengal or India,” said N.R. Banerjea, the vice-chancellor of BE College.

At Jadavpur, registrar Rajat Banerjee said: “We are doing the needful.”

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