Saturday, November 12, 2005
I am from the media: Are there storylines of interest here?
(For all the story lines a large body of research is already done and listed as links in the left hand side.)
Story angle 1:
Unequal distribution of top notch centrally funded institutions across various states.
Some have multiple and others have none. The interesting thing here is this is symptomatic of the political system that we have. While in US each state has 2 senators, and that balances each state power to some level. In India the number of MPs in a state are proportional to the population. Thus bigger states have more clout. Hence mega institutions like IITs, IIMs etc., which are like trophies, often end up in states which have more clout than the others. Some institutions like the 3 centrally funded IIITs (2 in MP and 1 in Allahbad) were made in the home states of the then HRD ministers.
An easy way to illustrate the above is to create a state-wise breakdown of HRD budget spending over the years. The table can be per state, and per capita per state. I am sure with no central universities or IIT/IIM/IISc/etc. states like Orissa, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhatisgarh will be at the bottom.
This protest so far has been via blogs (http://iiser.blogspot.com), emails, letters, faxes, petition, etc., instead of the standard way many protests are done (rail roko, rasta roko, bandh etc.) in India.
This may be one the first blog based protest in India. Thousands of letters, emails and petition signatures have been sent to the PM and Smt. Gandhi. You may know that in the US the Supreme court nominee stepped down because of protests, a big part of which was blog and email based. Same with respect to Dan Rather retiring.
A rhetorical conclusion of the story may be:
Will this work in India or will this turn into a standard bandh/rail roko/rasta roko fare?
Another rhetorical question:
If such peaceful protests are listened to won't it change the fundamental way protests are done in India?
Won't it reduce the number of rasta rokos, rail rokos, bandhs etc., which are often destructive and economically harmful, and sometimes violent?
Perhaps just for that reason the central government should pay attention to this protest and perhaps the national media should too.
In comparison, couple of weeks back I wrote to my local senator regarding the last supreme court nominee. I received a reply. No such reply from the PM or Smt. Gandhi has been received by any one of the thousands who wrote them.
Story angle 3: Seemingly arbitrary decision making in the HRD ministry of this government.
Four National Institute of Sciences were announced in Bhubaneswar, Pune, Allahabad and Chennai in 2003. In 2005 they were changed arbitrarily to Pune and Kolkata. While it may not be a big deal to Chennai and Allahabad as they have an IIT and an IIIT respectively, for Bhubaneswar and Orissa (where I am from) it is a big deal as there is no IIT/IISc/Inst of national importance/Central Univ etc. in Orissa. Basicaly there is no centrally funded higher education inst in Orissa.
Other examples of arbitrary decision at HRD: One fine morning 15 NIT directors were fired by the HRD M. Now some of them have been hired back. (For example: Prof. Sunil Sarangi, a reputed professor of IIT Kharagpur moved as the director of NIT Rourkela a few years back. He was one of the directors who was fired from his directorship for no reason. [The media just reported the news and did not question this.] NIT RKL did not have a director for many months. Now he has been hired back. ) If this is how our top academics and researchers are treated by the HRD babus and HRD ministers, no wonder most of the good scientists and academics leave India and settle abroad.