Sunday, November 06, 2005
Factsheet on NIS & Prposed Agenda for the Future Course of Action by Agamee Odisha
Please find below the 'Factsheet on NIS & Prposed Agenda for the Future Courseof Action by Agamee Odisha' presented in the 6th November convention on the issue of 'Establishment of NIS in Orissa'. The presentation draws from the material placed in the blogspot by Prof. Chitta Baral on the issue of NIS andsome of my thoughts.
Two years ago, a group of Pune-based scientists first mooted the idea of a new-age centre for science education and research to stop the brain drain to disciplines like management and for that matter to foreign countries. On 9th December 2003, the then HRD minister Professor M. M. Joshi, in an address to the Consultative Committee of the Parliament, announced about the Union Govemment’sdecision to establish four National Institutes of Sciences (NIS) at Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Pune and Allahabad. On 10th December, 2003, Press information Bureau, Government of India under a press release corroborated the declaration by the Ministry of HRD. Subsequently, an UGC document released on Jan 2004 declaring about the steps initiated by the UGC to establish four National Institutes of Sciences at Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Pune and Allahabad.
As a part of this initiative the Chairman, UGC, had written a letter to the then Vice Chancellor, Utkal University along with other VCs. Even a sub-committee was constituted with the VCs as members who had met at New Delhi in August 2003 to discuss on this matter. It was a go- ahead signal from the UGC based on which the then VC, Utkal University, had met the Hon’ble Chief Minister and impressed on him for the setting up of NIS at Bhubaneswar. The CM had also taken great interest and instructed the district authorities to cooperate in allocating the land for the purpose. Informally the location was decided to be Ghatikia, Bhubaneswar.
Quite contrary to these steps and declarations by the previous Government at the Centre, recently on September 28, 2005, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has announced the setting up of an Indian Institute of Science for Education and Research (IISER) at Pune and Kolkata, respectively. The aim of the National Institute of Sciences that Professor Joshi had announced in December 2003 is the same as the proposed IISERs. Thus, NIS and IISER, thoughthey differ in their names, both refer to the same concept.
Orissa, as you know, does not have any central university, or any institute of national repute like IIT, IIM, IIIT or ISI, etc. It also does not have any reputed autonomous science and technology institution funded by Government ofIndia. Orissa has often been a victim of negligible educational investment from the Central Government. It was deprived of an IIT just after Independence. It took almost a decade to declare REC, Rourkela, as a NIT. Where as the state of West Bengal where one of the IISERs is proposed has an IIT in Kharagpur, a central University in Shanti Niketan, two additional institutes of national importance - an IIM and an Indian Statistical institute(ISI), and three autonomous science and technology institutions, all in Kolkata. Similarly, the state of Maharastra where the other IISER is proposed, has theArmed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune, an IIT in Mumbai, and three other autonomous science and technology institutions. In recent years, Bhubaneswar has come up as a major information technology hub for software industry. Software majors like Infosys and Satyam have set up their facilities. However, when all other major IT cities have either an IIT or IIIT in the city or close by, Bhubaneswar in particular and Orissa in general, does not boast of such facilities either.
Now, this issue needs to be looked at from the perspective of whether, Orissa has the ability to nurture and flourish institutes of high standard like an NIS or IISER. Orissa government and the people of Orissa have helped create several top notch institutions like the Institute of Physics, the Xavier’s Institute of Management and the Institute of Life Sciences, all in Bhubaneswar. The Institute Of Physics at Bhubaneswar, is an autonomous research institution funded jointly by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Government of Orissa and established in 1972. Research at Institute of Physics is top notch by international standards. Its alumni have gone on to many good institutions all over the world. Many of its faculty and students have preferred it over an IIT. The Xavier’s Institute of Management owes its origin to a Social Contract between the Government of Orissa and the OJS (Orissa Jesuit Society). It was established in 1987, and ranks among the top business schools in India. This year's Outlook magazine ranks it 8 in the country among various business schools, including the IIMs. It has faculty with PhDs from top business schools such as University of Massachusetts, and Stern School of Business, NYU, NewYork. It also has a fellows program which is equivalent to PhDs. The Institute of Life Sciences, an initiative by the Govt. of Orissa, Department of Science and Technology, started a decade back. On August 2, 2002 it came under the administrative and financial control of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. The researchers of this institute often publish in international journals. To reiterate, the above three institutions had been created by the foresightedness of the Government of Orissa, and are now premier research institutions, albeit with limited focus, but boasting of world class research and teaching. Besides these three, there are several other research institutions in and around Bhubaneswar that do very good and useful research. This includes the Regional Research laboratory (RRL) in Bhubaneswar, the Regional medical research center (RMRC) in Bhubaneswar, the Central Rice research institute(CRRI) in Cuttack , the Central Institute of Fresh Water Aquaculture (CIFA) in Bhubaneswar, and the National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research in Olatpur. In addition, two institutions, the Institute of Material Sciences and the Institute of Mathematics and Application have been established by the Government of Orissa and are in their beginning stage. The above illustrates, how Bhubaneswar and Orissa have established and nurtured top notch research and educational institutions. Thus one can extrapolate and conclude that with high probability an NIS/IISER in Bhubaneswar will be very successful and well nurtured.
On the other hand, Orissa being the most backward state in India, often the need for a research institution, which can help develop proper growth strategies linking the development needs of the state with that of the available resources, has been mooted. This calls for a scientific approach and the need for an institute that envisages offering education and teaching in basic science totally integrated with the state-of-the-art research simultaneously working for developing facilities contributing to the upgradation of local needs. Setting up of an NIS/IISER in Bhubaneswar/Orissa will fulfill the long standing demand of a central government funded institute in the state and can act as a change agent in the development of the state.
Our Indian system of proportinal representation makes smaller states like Orissa susceptible to injustice and neglect by the Centre. That is where, we expect statesmen like Dr. Manmohan Singh, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, and Mr. Arjun Singh to lead and make sure that resources are fairly distributed, and interest of economically backward states like Orissa are protected. In a recent address, the hon’ble Prime Minister has refered to regional imbalance in case of educational institutions and has urged the state governments to strongly deal with such issues. We certainly look forward to such a balanced outlook even in setting upof NIS/IISER in Orissa.
In fact, since the issue refers to a previously taken decision, we would expect the Central Government to oblige Orissa with simply implementing the past decision. According to newspaper reports, the Chief Minister of Orissa, has written to the Prime Minister on this issue. He has also talked to Mr. Arjun Singh who seems to be positive on this issue.
However, early this week newspapers have reported that the “Chief Minister Naveen Patanaik has urged Union Human resource Minister Arjun Singh to expedite the establishment of the Regional Centre of Studies in Integrated Sciences (RCSIS) in Bhubaneswar under National Institute of scienceframework”. We, however, do not quite agree with this demand. Rather we would urge upon both the State and the Central Government to retain and implement their previous decision of setting up of NIS/IISER in Orissa.
The issue of relocating NIS/ IISER from Orissa has perturbed many Oriyas, both within and outside the state (including a number of Non-resident Oriyas). Prominent newspapers have been continuously raising this issue in the media. Oriyas outside have initiated many debates and signature campaigns. Thousand and thousands of signatures (both physical and electronic) are being sent to the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. NROs are writing open letters to Prime Minister, Planning Commission, Smt. Sonia Gandhi (UPA Chairperson) and the Minister of HRD, Mr. Arjun Singh pointing at the grave injustice done to Orissa by not setting up the NIS here. A PIL has already been filed in the Orissa High Court on the above issue. Agamee Orissa has taken up this issue since early October (immediately after the Central Government’s decision to set up IISERs at Pune & Kolkata). Since then, we have been coordinating with various other forums who have been fighting for this cause and evolving joint strategies to carry forward our demand for implemention of Government’s own decision to set up an NIS at BBSR. Periodical discussions with academicians, politicians, intellectuals, media and students are taking place on this issue to evolve the future plan of action. Today’s convention is an outcome of such discussions. There are also some laudable voluntary efforts from various persons like –
(i) Mr. Sahadev Sahu, Ex-Chief Secretary, Govt. of Orissa, to stage a hunger strike on the issue.
(ii) Prof.R.K.Nayak (hon’ble Member, Rajya Sabha) and
(iii) Prof. Digambar Mishra (Prof.,University of Alabama) volunteering to coordinate an audience with the PrimeMinister, of a small group of delegates representing the broader civil society,on behalf of Agamee Orissa.
An important objective of today’s convention is to decide on the future plan ofaction or set the agenda for our future course of action. Some suggestions are outlined below:
1. Silent rally by intellectuals to the Governor House
2. Hunger strike by two/three senior members in front of the Governor’s House
3. A peace rally by students
4. A selected/limited number of delegates meeting the Prime Minister on the issue (subject to our getting an approval for the appointment for the saidpurpose)
5. Appeal to hon’ble Members of Parliament and legislative assembly forstrongly lobbying for the cause
6. Appeal to the media – both print & electronic, for wide publicity of theissue, and ensuing debates and discussions on the issue
We would like to call upon the House to give their sugestions on the proposed agenda, suggest any other course of action, and decide on the dates for thevarious events.