Cloud on IISER Nagaland

 Only one of the two new Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research (IISER), which were announced in the 2015-2016 central budget, got the nod from the Union cabinet today.

By Basant Kumar Mohanty
  • Published 28.10.16
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New Delhi, Oct. 27: Only one of the two new Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research (IISER), which were announced in the 2015-2016 central budget, got the nod from the Union cabinet today.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the setting up of an IISER in southern Odisha's Berhampur. However, the proposal for an IISER in Nagaland is caught between the contrasting wishes of the state government and the Centre.

In the 2015 budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced the proposal to set up IISERs in Odisha and Nagaland. The announcement was made without consultation with the human resource development (HRD) ministry and the Nagaland government, sources said. When the HRD ministry wrote to the Nagaland government, asking it to suggest a site for the IISER campus, the state government developed cold feet.

"The state government wants a School of Planning and Architecture (SPA). It is under examination," a top HRD ministry official said.

The state government has argued that the SPA would better serve the region's needs for development than an IISER. There are also fears that an IISER in Nagaland may not attract the best scientists.

However, since it is a budget announcement, the approval of the finance minister is required for any change in the proposal. The HRD ministry went a step further and suggested that the IISER be set up in Assam and one SPA be set up in Nagaland.

The finance ministry is understood to have agreed on just one institute in the region due to financial constraints. In that case, only Nagaland may get the SPA.

SPAs are focused on education and research on town planning, architecture and product designing. SPA, New Delhi, director Chetan Vaidya supported the Nagaland government's demand.

"There is no SPA in the Northeast. The region needs one such institution for proper development of the area and architectural designing," Vaidya said.

HRD minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters that the IISER in Berhampur had already started operating on a temporary campus from this academic year. The cabinet has approved Rs 152.79 crore to meet the expansion and other expenditures for the initial three years.

The government of Odisha has already provided land for the permanent campus.

The HRD ministry will bring a bill in Parliament to amend the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research Act for inclusion of IISER Berhampur in the list of all IISERs.

IISERs were started in Calcutta, Pune, Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram in 2006-2007. They have proved to be niche institutions focusing on basis science research.

The current NDA government has added two IISERs, one in Tirupati and one in Berhampur.