Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Pioneer News Service/ Bhubaneswar
The leader of the Lok Sabha and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday assured the BJD and BJP members in the House that the Centre would reconsider the question of setting up of the National Institute of Science ( NIS) in Bhubaneswar.
The assurance came after a 15-minute adjournment of the House in the wake of a dharna by the BJD and BJP members, protesting against Mr Mukherjee's earlier statement on the issue, terming it as a distortion of facts, politically motivated and an insult to the people of Orissa. The Minister gave the assurance when the House resumed.
The NIS issue also rocked the Rajya Sabha, with the NDA members of the House staging a walkout in protest against the Government's "unsatisfactory" reply.
Mr Mukherjee in his earlier statement in Lok Sabha, had said that a couple of days ago, some members of the House from Orissa wanted to know whether the Government had decided to change the location of NIS from Bhubaneswar to Kolkata. The facts are that on April 9, 2003, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had taken a decision to establish four Centres of Studies in Integrated Sciences at Allahabad, Bhubaneswar, Chennai and Pune.
These centres were proposed to be established under Section 12 (ccc) of the UGC Act. The UGC is empowered to establish institutions for providing common facilities, services and programmes for a group of universities or for the universities in general.
He further stated that the Human Resource Development Ministry, in its letter of June 9, 2003, had raised a query whether the UGC is legally empowered to set up such educational centres. The matter was further examined in detail by the HRD ministry in consultation with the ministry of Law.
The Ministry of Law opined that the UGC could not establish the proposed centres. The UGC was accordingly informed by the ministry on October 28, 2003. As such, the UGC's proposal to establish four centres could not materialise.
Mr Mukherjee said the Government of India has at no time approved the setting up of institutes, as proposed by the UGC. The UGC chairman, thereafter, informed the Government on November 26, 2003 that the UGC would like to facilitate setting up of the institutes as fully autonomous institutions under the universities in which the institutes were to be established. Even this proposal was never agreed to by the Government.
He further said the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, at its meeting on March 4, 2005, under the chairmanship of Prof CNR Rao, recommended the creation of two new institutes devoted to science education and research and also recommended that they may be located at Pune and Kolkata.
It was after this that the process of setting up of these two institutes at Pune and Kolkata was initiated by the HRD Ministry. As there was no decision by the Government at any time to set up the science institute at Bhubaneswar, the question of shifting the science institute from Bhubaneswar to Kolkata did not arise.
The NIS issue was jointly raised during Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha by Leader of the BJD in the House, Baijayant Panda and BJP MP Rudra Naryan Pani. The NDA members of the House finally staged a walkout as the Union Government failed to give a satisfactory reply.
Strongly criticising the Government's move, Mr Panda said that though he was not opposing a new institute to come up in Kolkata, the Centre should not back away from its earlier promise to a backward state like Orissa. He strongly demanded that the proposed NIS announced for Orissa during the previous NDA Government be retained in Orissa. It is an emotive issue for people of Orissa, he pointed out.
He observed that the UPA Government, possibly under pressure from Left parties, has decided to shift the NIS from Orissa. The Planning Commission had allocated Rs 100 crore for four such new institutes of excellence and, accordingly, the Orissa Government has already identified and made available 75 acres of land. Again, the institute has been reflected in the September publication of the UGC this year. Though Orissa Chief Minister has written three letters in this regard to the Prime Minister, there has been no response from the Centre as yet.
Deputy Leader of the BJP in Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj alleged that the UPA Government is torpedoing all the people-oriented development works initiated during the NDA regime. She also accused the Centre of indifference towards the States of UP and Orissa as they are ruled by NDA partners.
Former Union Human Resource Development Minister Murali Manohar Joshi stated that Orissa, being a neighbor of West Bengal, the shifting of NIS would adversely affect the political and economic equations of both the states. BJP members Kripal Peraman and SS Ahluwalia also expressed their concern over the move.
The issue, however, found support from the CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury, who favoured establishment of the NIS in Bhubaneswar. The Minister of State for the Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachauri tried to pacify the members, stating that the matter would be looked into. But this did not satisfy the agitated NDA members, who demanded a commitment from the Minster in this regard. Finally they walked out of the House amid slogans by Mr Rudra Pani that the Centre's hegemony would not be tolerated.