Friday, June 30, 2006


Indian Express and NewIndPress: Bias against Bhubaneswar

Indian Express published a toned down version of my submission to them on July 1st 2006 in their editorial page of that day. I like what the editors of Indian Express did in toning down my article.

The article also appeared in NewIndiaExpress.

Following are some links that I mentioned in my submission that they
did not list:


NIS/IISER and NALCO privatization

Following is a revised version of an article that I wrote that was sent to various UPA ministers, BJP leaders, and Indian media. It was sent on June 27th night PST. Indian Express published a toned down version of the article on July 1st 2006 in their editorial page of that day.


Why I support privatization but oppose NALCO divestment by the UPA government?

Chitta Baral

I had very high hopes from a government run by Dr. Singh and Mr. Chidambaram. However, so far they both have proved that degrees from Oxford and Harvard do not necessarily make them trustworthy, fair or statesmen. The reason I and many of us who support privatization in general but oppose NALCO divestment is that we do not trust Dr. Singh and Mr. Chidambaram will use the money raised in a way fair to Orissa or other non-UPA allied states.

They have so far behaved like fiefs and partisans with respect to the Indian budget, especially the 06-07 HRD budget. Let me elaborate on it. The budget spreadsheet and the speech are available in the web and the readers can verify the points. In item 96 of the budget speech the finance minister highlights 100 crores each for University of Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai; the first two in UPA allied states and the third is the FM's home state. In item 97 he mentions 100 crores for Punjab Agricultural University, in the state where the PM spent his youth. In item 98 he mentions a Biotech Institute in Kerala, another state ruled by an UPA ally. These items are the only ones under the heading of ``Institutions of Excellence,'' as if non-UPA implies non-deserving of such institutes. In other parts of the speech there is mention of developing Paddy Processing Research Centre at Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) into a national-level institute and renaming the existing National Institute of Port Management, Chennai as National Maritime Academy, upgrading it into a Central University with regional campuses at Mumbai, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam, all in UPA-allied states.

This is not all. In the budget spreadsheets there are more goodies for the UPA-allied states and yes, a punishment for a non-UPA ruled state. The expenditure budget volume 2, item 73 lists two IISERs (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research) at 50 crores in Pune and Kolkata, again states allied with the UPA and earlier this year a third one has been announced for Punjab. These will be new institutions. The punishment part comes from removals. During the NDA government the precursors of IISERs then called NISs (National Institute of Sciences) were proposed in Pune, Allahbad, Chennai and Bhubaneswar. Among these Pune was retained and the rest were removed. While Allahbad and Chennai have centrally funded IIIT and IIT and the later was given other goodies, Bhubaneswar, Orissa has neither. Moreover, Orissa does not have any centrally funded higher education institutions such as an IIT, IIM, IISc, central university, ISI, etc., beyond one of the 19 NITs. With Bihar and Rajasthan, Orissa is at the bottom of the list with respect to higher education funding. (See details at The SAC-PM chair is reported to have said that Orissa is among the two states that sends the most number of students to science research institutes. But all that does not matter. It seems what matters is that Orissa did not vote for the UPA. So it deserves to be punished by this government, and even an institute (NIS/IISER) which was announced by a former HRD minister and the current president himself (please see the links at and whose 45 page DPR dated May 2004 (when UPA govt was voted in) is still in the UGC website can be ignored ahead of other locations with UPA muscle.

Thus many of us in Orissa are now saying: God save the country and God save Orissa from such exploiters who put on a mask of simplicity to get good press but are rude when no press is looking; as the PM was to the Orissa MPs when he said "Money does not grow in trees". But Dr. Singh, it grows in trees when it is for Punjab or West Bengal! Dr. Singh talks about equality and equity and serving all people, but when the time comes, together with the FM and UPA allies shamelessly takes away bulk of the new HRD initiatives and punishes states like Orissa. Lest someone wants to mention the proposed new AIIMS in backward states, the expenditure budget of 2006-2007 (item 26 of sbe 46) shows that the original budget for the AIIMS in 2005-06 was 250 crores, which was revised downwards to 6 crores and the budget for 2006-07 is 75 crores.

It is shocking that the PM and FM have to be told that the Indian budget is the money for all of India, not their fief. It should be spent across India and in case of higher education it should be not only spread across India but aimed at correcting existing regional imbalances instead of making it worse, as the 2006-07 budget does.

Under these circumstances, the divestment of NALCO can only be seen as taking money from Orissa (as a big part of NALCO's profit is due to the low rate it pays to Orissa with respect to the minerals it consumes and the pollution it makes) to the center and perhaps earmarking it to UPA allied states for next year.

Now if the Prime minister and the cabinet were to shed their arrogance and correct their mistakes starting with announcing that the earlier announced NIS/IISER will indeed be immediately established in Orissa, correcting regional imbalances by creating new IITs or IIT cousins in states without them (Note: Even the so called fair process used by the new IIT committee ignored the NITs. So now 4 of the 5 institutes selected are ranked worse than many NITs, including NIT Rourkela in Orissa. See, opening central universities in backward district clusters across India and promising that the money generated by divesting 10% of NALCO will be spent in building Orissa's long neglected infrastructure then I would be fully supportive of the proposed divestment. But as it stands, I have no faith in the PM or FM, as their actions so far tells me that they are going to again exploit Orissa.


Following is the original article that I sent on June 27th 2006.


Why I support privatisation but oppose NALCO divestment by the UPA government

I had very high hopes from a government run by Dr. Manmohan Singh
and Mr. Chidambaram. However, so far they both have proved that
degrees from Oxford and Harvard does not necessarily make a person
good, fair or a statesman.

Its shocking, and outrageous that this year the bulk of the new
budget of the HRD ministry has been allocated to states such as
Punjab (where the prime minister spent his youth; through an IISER
and 100 crores to Punjab Agricultural University ), Tamil Nadu
(where the Finance minister comes from; 50 crores to Univ of Madras
and more), West Bengal (the state whose MPs have the UPA government
on choke hold but yet profess their love for equality; IISER in
Kolkata; 50 crores for University of Calcutta), etc. Please see the
details in

God save the country and God save Orissa from such exploiters who
put on a mask of simplicity to get good press (but are rude when no
press is looking; as the PM was to the Orissa MPs when he said
"Money does not grow in trees"; but it grows in trees when it is for
Punjab or West Bengal) who talk equality and equity and serving all
people, but when the time comes shamelessly hijack bulk of the
budget to their own state or to their allies and punish the other
states. Have not the PM and FM, and now the health minister who
wants one of the health institute in his own state, heard of MPLAD.
If Punjab or Tamil Nadu needs something special, why don't they use
their MPLAD? The Indian budget is the money for all of India, not
the fief of the FM, PM or the CPI-M. (The only fair person in the
cabinet seems to be Mr.Lalu Yadav, who although put a bit more
Railway money on Bihar; spread the rest nicely and fairly all around
the country.)

Under these circumstances, the divestment of NALCO can be seen only
as taking money from Orissa (as a big part of NALCO's profit is due
to the low rate it pays to Orissa with respect to the minerals it
consumes and the pollution it makes) to the center and perhaps
earmarking it to Punjab/TamilNadu/WestBengal /etc. for next year.

Now if the Prime minister and the cabinet were to correct their
mistakes and announce that the earlier announced NIS/IISER will
indeed be established in Orissa; make other amendments such as
upgrading NIT Rourkela to one of the IIT-cousins (as 4 of the five
that are selected for upgradation are ranked below NIT Rourkela; see, opening central universities in KBK,
etc. and promise that the money generated by divesting 10%
of NALCO will be spent in building Orissa's long neglected
infrastructure then I would be fuly supportive of the divestment.
But as it stands, I have no faith in the PM, FM or the Indian
Cabinet, as their actions so far tells me that they are going to
again exploit Orissa by taking this money and investing it in the
states they come from or have ties to.

Thus I am supportive of Orissa resisting this divestment until a
central govt that is fair to Orissa is in power or until the current
govt proves its fairness towards Orissa through its actions (not
just words). I am proud that this time, all parties in Orissa
(Congress, BJP, BJD, etc.) have seen through the evil eyes of the
center and are collectively resisting it.

So Mr. PM, FM and the central cabinet, first prove that you are fair
to Orissa, and only then we will believe you that you are going to
use the disvestment money fairly and not just hijack it to your own


Chitta Baral (ps -- Anyone who would like to argue that
the UPA govt has done this and that, please look at and tell me what you think
how the HRD higher education allocation were made and how fair it
is. Or do you think Orissans don't need higher education; they are
fine as coolies, and the central govt has been generous to give them
work for 100 days a year under NREGS.)


Good news or just some announcements to pacify Oriyas temporarily?

Hopefully this is for real!! But once bitten twice shy. It would have been more reassuring if the announcement came from the PM himself and from Delhi; not from Bhubaneswar.

Anyway the article says "official release". Which official does it refer to. Govt of India? Govt of Orissa? Mr. Chandrasekhar Sahu's official release?

I hope it is not nitpicking, but since I have lost all faith in PM Dr. Singh, what does it mean he has assuered. When will the NIS/IISER be established? If classes will start in Kolkata and Pune IISER in July 2006, and the PM has already made an announcement for an IISER in Punjab, why does not he come out and announce the establishment of an IISER/NIS in Bhubaneswar? Why just an assurance? What is the value of an assurance, when the PM does not say that he gave the assurance, but Mr. Sahu says that he got an assurance.

NIS to be set up in Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar, July 1. (PTI): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured that a National Institute of Science (NIS) would be set up here, an official release said on Friday.

Singh gave the assurance to Union Minister of State for Labour Chandrasekhar Sahu at a recent meeting, it said.

Sahu, who met the Prime Minister in New Delhi over some pending major issues related to Orissa, had apprised him that the UGC had announced in 2003 to set up four regional centres of integrated science at Bhubaneswar, Pune, Allahabad and Chennai.

For this purpose, Sahu said, 75 acres had been identified at Gothapatna in Bhubaneswar. However, the Centre had shelved the proposal on the ground that the UGC was not competent to set up such institutes under the Act.

The Centre had decided to establish two National Institutes of Science for research at Kolkata and Pune under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, he said and urged Singh to either revive the UGC proposal to set up the NIS at Bhubaneswar or implement the same under the HRD Ministry, it said.

The Prime Minister, the release said, had responded positively to the suggestion.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


... anti-Centre mood in Orissa

Nalco offload move adds to anti-Centre mood in Orissa


Posted online: Monday, June 26, 2006 at 0000 hours IST

BHUBANESWAR: Centre-bashing has become a pastime for politicians in
Orissa. And, the Centre, too, seems to be handing it to them on a
platter, what with its continued neglect of the state.

Last week, the political atmosphere in Orissa heated up even more
when Union coal minister Shibu Soren hinted that royalty revision
was not coming forth immediately, even though it had been delayed by
almost a year.

To add to this, tempers flew high when the Union mines ministry approved the proposal for 10% disinvestment in Nalco. As such, the people of Orissa have been feeling betrayed because of the shifting of the National Institute of Science (NIS) to another state, and the proposed All India Institute of Medical Science not taking shape. They are also not happy with the Centre for the delay in setting up the much-hyped Paradip Oil Refinery.

Interestingly, Orissa witnessed a series of protests and demonstrations on the issue of the Centre’s neglect. State chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, took Mr Soren head-on over the issue of coal royalty revision. “We have raised the issue with the Centre several times”, he said. In fact, coal royalty on selected grades have increased 132 times between 1971 and 2002 but in case of power grade coal (E&F), mostly available in Orissa, the hike was 38 times during this period. That is the reason why Orissa has been losing about Rs 100 crore every year. According to one estimate, the highest royalty rate was just 11.76% over the lowest royalty rate in 1971. At present, it is over 300%.

Even before the wordy-duel between Mr Soren and Mr Patnaik could die
down, the din over Nalco disinvestment started. The state was quick
to disapprove the Centre’s move.

“Nalco is making a huge profit and if the Union mines ministry is so
keen on its expansion, this can be funded from out of its profit,”
Mr Patnaik argued. The state government has found an ally in
Communist Party of India general secretary, AB Bardhan.

BJP activists, too, demonstrated in front of Nalco’s corporate
office here, burning effigies of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and
Prime minister Manmohan Singh. The tone for this was set by BJP
national leader, Sushma Swaraj’s recent visit to the state, when she
raked up the issue of AIIMS.

Union labour minister Chandra Skekhar Sahu, too, had to face a
hostile media as he failed to convince them on the issue of the
Paradip Oil Refinery project and the NIS.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


PM Manmohan Singh visiting Orissa soon?

This article says that PM Singh is visiting Vidarbha at the end of this month
and Bihar and Orissa are next in his list. Lets hope minister
Chandrasekhar Sahu has the correct information and PM Singh will
announce an IISER in Orissa during this upcoming visit.



Friday, June 16, 2006

Manmohan touring villages to assess whether growing rural poverty is linked to liberalisation

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: The Indian Planning Commission's alarm bells over increasing poverty and growing urban-rural divide has made "Dr Liberalization" in Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh sit up to examine if it was linked to the liberalization he set rolling in the early Nineties as the then finance minister.

Though Left parties have been finding a link between liberalization and poverty, but the prime minister had been always dismissive of their criticism. But, the rude shock for Dr Singh was when his own liberalization commander-in-arms Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, suggested an urgent reorientation of the liberalization policy to protect the rural poor.

Dr Ahluwalia's recommendation has come in the Planning Commission's draft approach paper on the upcoming 11th Five-Year Plan that stresses that "there is a point beyond which the urban sector cannot grow without being complimented by the rural sector" and hence the urgency to launch an aggressive economic campaign targeting the rural poor.

The paper's pointer is that a plethora of rural programmes launched by the government are not doing the magic of transforming life of the poor as it is rather becoming worse and worse. And so Dr Manmohan Singh has decided to himself travel to villages from this month-end to personally assess what ails the government's policies.

He descends on Nagpur on June 30 and will be extensively travelling to rural areas in Nagpur and other surrounding districts of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra for three days to study why the rural employment guarantee scheme, Bharat Nirman, rural healthcare mission and other programmes are not yielding the expected results.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said he chose Vidarbha to be his first destination since it has recorded the highest number of 540 farmer suicides in the last one year. He will be interacting with farmers to understand their problems to enable him to prescribe short-term and long-term remedies for the root cause of the suicides.

The prime minister's next destinations are Bihar and Orissa, other two poverty-stricken states. Both the states are ruled by opposition parties, but that did not deter him from inclusion in his travel plans for on -the-spot assessment and review of all rural programmes.

Notwithstanding the Congress convening a conference of its District Congress Commitee (DCC) presidents here last month to actively involve partymen in the government programmes, orders have gone out to ensure minimum political personalities are included in his trips to villages as he wants to devote his maximum time in interacting with the officials actually implementing various programmes as then only can he know why they are not reducing poverty.

The sources said Dr Manmohan Singh also wants to make his Vidarbha trip a learning mission as he wants to pick up something to implement from Mahatma Gandhi's Sevagram and Vinoba Bhave's Paunar Ashram. He shall be staying overnight in one of the two places to have better interaction with residents.

The 11th Plan's draft approach paper envisages the growth rate of 8.5 to 9.5 percent and recommends drastic changes in the priorities fixed in the previous plans, with a promise that the new regime would ensure the average Indian's "real income" doubling in 10 years. It envisages maximum benefit to the deprived people.

The 10th Plan's targeted growth rate was eight percent, but the Planning Commission officials now admit that it may be around seven percent overall in five years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Indian Express on the IISER in Punjab

What happened to the announcement that PM was supposed to make
regarding Bhubaneswar??


After Kolkata & Pune, PM pushes for 3rd science institute in Punjab

Shubhajit Roy Posted online: Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 0000 hr

NEW DELHI, JUNE 12:In a significant step forward towards building
education infrastructure—in the wake of the quota controversy—the
Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has got a green signal to
set up a new Indian Institute of Science for Education and Research
(IISER) in Punjab.

Sources told The Indian Express that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
is key to this move—two IISERs are already in the making in Kolkata
and Pune.

“The PM has been very keen to have this institute ready by the next
academic session so the approvals are coming faster than usual,’’ a
source in the HRD ministry confirmed.

The approval from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR), asked to examine the feasibility of the project, came about
a fortnight ago, sources said. CSIR’s head of Research and
Development (R&D) and Planning, Naresh Kumar has informed the HRD
ministry that it was ‘‘feasible to set up an IISER in Punjab at the
cost of Rs 500 crores.’’ The state government has been asked to
identify 100 acres. It will have about 2,000 students and 200
faculty. Like the other two IISERs, it will also offer Bachelor’s,
Master’s and PhD programmes in science research, the students
selected via the IIT entrance. The proposal will go to the Oversight
Committee which is working out a roadmap for upgrade in the higher
education sector, in order to offset the impact of 27 pc OBC quotas.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Indian Express also says that TIFR gets the best applications (on science) from Bengal and Orissa.

See the red highlighted sentence below. If it is true that the best
applications at TIFR come from Bengal and Orissa, that is one more reason why an IISER should be established in Orissa; and if even if one is established in W. Bengal.


Why Arjun needs to drop by TIFR before he imposes quotas

At frontier
research institute, seat hike no solution: ‘bigger crisis’ is
finding outstanding students and retaining the high talent

MUMBAI, JUNE 7:If HRD Minister Arjun Singh pays his first visit to
the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)—a deemed
university and a national centre for frontier research in nuclear
science and mathematics—he will learn why the proposed quotas with a
mandatory seat hike may not work on this Mumbai campus that
struggles to find quality students despite scouting via a nationwide
entrance test at the BSc-level.

In this autonomous institute funded by the Department of Atomic
Energy, the nation’s future top scientists gain entry based on their
knowledge of basic sciences—not college grades, reservations, or an
arbitrary seat strength.

‘‘We don’t know how quotas will be implemented,’’ says G
Krishnamoorthy, Dean of Graduate Studies. ‘‘So far, our research
does not depend on grades or quotas or a notional number of seats.
Why people are not coming to science is a much bigger crisis for
scientific institutions than reservations, and it needs to be
addressed. Students from the deep south have almost vanished from
science, they go to IITs.’’

The concern here—also faced by top science institutes nationwide—is
not the number of seats, but finding, as TIFR advertises,
‘‘exceptionally talented, strongly motivated’’ students despite a
competitive, merit-based selection system extended up to Siliguri,
West Bengal, last year. Candidates are encouraged to walk-in for the
test without prior notice.

‘‘Every year, we find it more and more difficult to get a fairly
acceptable number of good quality students. We’re worried, it’s
hurting our experimental programmes,’’ says Krishnamoorthy, who’s
coordinating selections for 2006.

This year, about 60 PhD-level candidates were selected from 6,105
applicants, but the Institute ‘‘hopes’’ at least 30-35 accept and
join. On an average, only ‘‘50-60 per cent of students selected’’
turn up to join the programmes, with others preferring the IITs or
more lucrative options.

For admissions here, the number of seats is almost a non-issue.

Last year, for example, 13 PhD candidates students were selected for
mathematics but 10 joined. This year, four were selected for
mathematics. In biology, 10 joined last year, up from two in 2002.
During one year, five were selected for chemistry but none joined.

Director S Bhattacharya told The Indian Express that the institute
has not received any information from the government about the
proposed legislation. ‘‘We’ll be happy to be part of any
decision-making process,’’ says Bhattacharya. ‘‘My hope is that the
legislators in their wisdom devise a plan that won’t affect us
negatively and will ensure our activities remain of high quality.’’

About 400-600 of the test applicants are called for hour-long
interviews during February to May. Last year was a ‘‘better’’ year
with 49 joining, from 85 who were selected.

‘‘It’s a high-pressure environment. Regularly, students in
specialisations like mathematics are asked to leave mid-way if they
cannot cope,’’ says a senior faculty member.

Soon, they’ll start preparing for 2007 selections.

‘‘We can’t think of a substantial increase in numbers,’’ says a
senior faculty. ‘‘Faculty is getting old. The absence of young minds
can be detrimental to science. Even in computer science, quality
students are not joining.’’

Best applications are coming from a ‘‘catchment area’’ of
science—Bengal and Orissa. ‘‘We test knowledge of basic sciences and
understanding of scientific principles,’’ says Krishnamoorthy. ‘‘We
need people with a clear aptitude to seek further knowledge. Some
years ago we stopped selecting based on grades because they vary as
per regions.’’

India’s top scientists work at TIFR’s School of Mathematics, School
of Natural Sciences, School of Technology and Computer Science. C N
R Rao, the Prime Minister’s chief scientific advisor, is on TIFR’s
council of management, along with scientists like Atomic Energy
Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar.

Rao recently told this paper: “A difficult situation has been
precipitated without a proper discussion with people who know about
education’’. Some TIFR’s PhD students had joined anti-quota protests
in Mumbai, but the faculty says it’s going to ‘‘wait and watch.’’

TIFR’s 2006 PhD candidates

• 6,105 attempt written test
• 30 selected in physics
• 6 selected in chemistry
• 5 selected in computer science
• 4 selected in mathematics
• 13 selected in biology

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