Time to reimagine how we build our new institutions

M V Rajeev Gowda
Sir, I rise in support of the passage of the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill.

It gives me special pleasure to speak on this particular Bill because the inspiration for Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research is actually Prof C N R Rao. He is the son of my home city, Bengaluru, my home district, Kolar, originally and he is also a Bharat Ratna. If you think about our state, the glorious state of Karnataka, and its contribution, it has given Bharat Ratnas to Visvesvaraya, C N R Rao and there are also others in the field of music; but basically, the fact that we honour scientists, that we honour technologists and engineers shows you what an extraordinary respect we have for their contributions and their ability to build the multifaceted foundations that you need for a modern country.

Prof C N R Rao inspired the UPA government, exhorted us to create these IISERs and these two are adding to the rank of these institutions. Sir, one small clarification that I wanted the minister to give us is, the finance minister, Arun Jaitley, had pointed out in his Budget Speech that he was granting an IISER to Nagaland, wherein the government of Nagaland responded that they had not asked for an IISER and that they would be much happier, and it would be more appropriate, to get a School of Planning and Architecture for Nagaland. So, what is the current status of this issue and what are you doing with that fund allocated for the IISER? Is it being relocated to another region like Assam? Please clarify and let us know.

Sir, when I talk about the whole business of using these investments as opportunities to trigger growth in the region, it will happen only if you actually build bridges. We are very good, as a nation, at acquiring land, building an institution, but those institutions stand isolated from the communities, which are part of the states, the regions they are part of. This is something that we must remedy.

As we think about building these new institutions, one of the first things that we get are complaints — you have started these institutions, but there are no labs, there are no other facilities, etc. Today, I will not complain about that; I will say that money is coming in and in the course of time these will be available. But, the basic point is in this internet era, it is also an opportunity for us to reimagine how we build these new institutions. 

An institution today can be set up with access to the world of knowledge to teachers sought after around the world, to research materials that are accessible online, etc. So, how do we do this? This is something that the ministry should do. There are so many new institutions being created and it will take time for faculty to come in. But, how can you creatively harness the resources that are available worldwide and online to ensure that world-class, cutting-edge education in these fields is available to our students from day one is the point. This requires imagination. We will come and brainstorm with you and we can use the best for our students.

Similarly, when we are talking about science education and research — if you look at the Statement of Objects and Reasons — it also mentions the word “arts”. And this is something I want to emphasise. In this country, we have become obsessive about science, engineering and technology and we have often forgotten that there has to be humanities and social sciences dimension to balance our emphasis on science. When the Human Genome Project was launched in a big way, there was also a lot of funding allotted in the US to the ethical, legal and social implications of the Human Genome Project. We all know, when you split an atom, there are huge impacts on the world of politics, security and our own future as a planet. When we are talking about so many other dimensions, when we have an environment where the environment itself is changing, ecology matters, etc, are important to understand human role in the transformation of society.

This is not a new subject. The honourable minister is aware that the two “cultures” brought this to the world’s attention and this is something that we must integrate in these institutions. Simultaneously, if you find ways to build bridges with industry, then we will not only have to focus on pure sciences, but we will also provide people with an exposure to applied science and that will be beneficial, both to industry as well as to the people in these institutions and to the faculty to take up research projects that will be beneficial to the community, etc.

Sir, when you think about the quality of graduates that we produce, we need to think about the lessons from the field of engineering. Ficci has done some survey, which says that 80 per cent of our engineers are unemployable. None of us in the country will be served if people who graduate from our institutions do not have the capabilities to go out and further the cause of science education and research.

Therefore, one foot must be in the world of practicality of how we are going to take these people and integrate them into other institutions to go forward. Think about placement on day one. But in the process do not compromise on the quality of education.

We are not here only to cater to the job market; we are here to build an institution and we are here to build a tradition of science education and research that will be world class. When we want to do that, we have to think about the spirit of our educational system, the spirit of enquiry, the ecosystem of research that we integrate with and for that it is not just these two institutions, but networks have already been built amongst the NITs, there are other online and other networks where faculty lectures are shared, etc. But, beyond that, it is the spirit of science, the spirit of enquiry, the ability to encourage youngsters to go for conferences and publish in journals, which have to come together if you want to make these truly the institutions of national importance which is what they deserve.

/> Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, on July 26

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