In June 2005 the PM Manmohan Singh constituted National Knowledge Commission (NKC) headed by Sam Pitroda. The broad mandate for NKC is to suggest ways to spread education among the masses of the country with special emphasis on primary education and improving the standard of higher education. [Image source]
The PM being a scholar first, then a politician, who would understand better than Manmohan Singh that the billion-strong India can make rapid economic strides on the back of quality education. Hence constituting NKC has been one of his first decisions after the UPA government assumed power at the center.
In its first report in Jan 2006, the NKC suggested setting up of a massive number of 1500 universities spread over the length and breadth of the country (see my story, 1500 new universities). While this will not only take time, it will also need a huge outlay of funds and determined approach to make it happen.
The point to note is that perhaps for the first time since setting up of speciality institutes like IITs and IIMs post Independence, there is a clear direction from the central government in the field of education.
In the interim, among other initiatives the government has upped the effort of upgrading 7 institutions of repute in the country to the level of ‘Institutes of National Importance’. What that means is that the institutes so chosen will see a quantum jump in grants from the government to improve overall facilities.
From West Bengal, 2 institutes have been included in the list of 7, which are the Besu (Bengal Engineering & Science University) and the engineering and technology faculty of Jadavpur University. In both cases the center has been dragging feet after the announcement of their selection.
Now, after prolonged agitation at Besu (that spilled over in this year’s Book Fair at the Salt lake Stadium), the center has given its approval for the institute’s upgrade to Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology. The mood at Besu is upbeat.
However, for JU the wait is still not over. There is no word of confirmation from the center or the state for that matter as to when it too will qualify as per center’s yardstick. An alarmed VC of JU has written to the authorities to speak out their mind over the matter because such decisions cannot be left hanging for long (read today’s TT).