Sugata Bose speaks on the National Institute of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I at the outset express my appreciation to our new hon. Minister for Human Resource Development for felicitating all the teacher MPs on the occasion of ‘Guru Purnima’ a couple of days ago? That was a very fine symbolic gesture on his part and we on our part wish him all the best in discharging the onerous responsibility that he has been given to improve our educational system for our younger generation.

On the face of it, this is a very simple and straightforward amendment to the NIT Act.

It only adds one more NIT in Andhra Pradesh consequent on the bifurcation of the old State between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. But this apparently small amendment raises some very deep questions about our educational policy and the future direction of the younger generation in our country.

Some of the concerns that I had wished to express have already been anticipated by my colleague, Shri Shashi Tharoor, who, by virtue of belonging to a marginally larger party in this Lok Sabha, has the right to speak before me. I wish he had stayed to listen to at least the next speaker who had his views to express on this important subject.

I agree with many of the concerns about polity that had been expressed by my good friend, Shri Shashi Tharoor, but I think he made one very unfair comparison. Harvard University is a private university in the world and its endowment is larger than the GDP of many countries in this world. So, that comparison should not really be made.

Now what are these National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research? We started out with eight regional engineering colleges and now, we have many more but the 20 of them are upgradations from the status of regional engineering colleges. Subsequently, 10 more NITs have been added and today, we are about to welcome in this Parliament the birth of a new NIT in Andhra Pradesh. We will, of course, support that move and we wish the people of Andhra Pradesh all the best for the future. I would, however, like to raise some questions about the kind of education that we wish to give to our younger generation. Shri Javadekar was absolutely right in saying that even in the nomenclature of these institutes, we have the word ‘technology’ but also the phrases ‘science education and research’.

Now we have to have a fine balance between teaching and research in all of our educational institutes including our universities both central and State in addition to the IITs, the NITs and the IISERs. Unfortunately, the NIT in Andhra Pradesh and also some of the new NITs that have been approved by this Parliament do not have capacity for carrying out the kind of cutting edge research and innovation that we need in this country.

When we go ahead and announce the establishment of new institutions, first of all, it takes a lot of time to build a new campus. Even this NIT is currently functioning out of a temporary campus but at least when it comes to physical infrastructure, when it comes to bricks and mortar, for a number of years after the announcement of these new institutes, money is spent and many contractors make money but do we give adequate attention to human resources? Do we actually anticipate the faculty requirements for these new institutes? Do we actually make sure that the students who will join these new institutes will, in fact, get the best instruction possible? I think we need to pay very close attention to these issues.

I would also like to add that we have a large number of institutes of national importance which are devoted to technology of one kind or another.

The IITs, the NITs and also the Institutes of Information Technology run into scores in terms of the numbers of Institutes of Technology of one kind or another that we have. But do we pay adequate attention to institutes for the Humanities and the Arts? What is happening in our Institutes of Technology, particularly the NITs is that we are not producing well-rounded citizens. Even in Institutes of Technology there should be arrangements to teach subjects in the field of Arts and Humanities. If you consider the best Institute of Technology in the world today, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a very fine Philosophy Department. It has a superb History Department. They are small but the students who are training to be engineers are given an opportunity to also study the Arts and the Humanities. Otherwise, in this craze for Information Technology in particular, we will be creating very one dimensional young citizens of India.

Now, a couple of years ago Shri Anil Madhav Dave had asked a very pertinent question from the Ministry of Human Resource Development. He had asked whether the condition of learning in the subjects of Humanities and Arts is poor and he had also asked whether the Government is making any action plan for new institutes and incentives in the field of Arts, Commerce, Culture and Humanities. I am sorry to have to say that in the written reply that was provided by the Ministry of Human Resource Development there were very misleading statements. I will you why. It was stated that up to 20/11 there were 4677 institutions only for science and technology and there were 4315 institutions offering courses only on Arts and Humanities in that same year. But that was not the question. The question was how many institutes of national importance we have in the field of humanities compared to the number of institutes of national importance in the field of science and technology. Two years ago, in his Budget Speech, Shri Arun Jaitley had announced that there was going to be a national institute of Humanities named after none other than our great iconic leader the late Jaiprakash Narain in Madhya Pradesh. But this Parliament and the general public in India have not heard very much more since then about the progress in the creation of this one national institute for the Humanities that had been announced by this Government more than two years ago. Even if we are not able to set up very many national institutes of importance in the field of Humanities and Arts, there are other ways in which Humanities and Arts can be supported in our universities and colleges. For example, in the United States of America there is a National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts which provide funding for the finest research and new innovation and creativity in the field of Humanities and Arts. So, there are ways in which we can provide a more balanced education for our younger generation.

Sir, there are a few more things to be said about our Educational Policy, but today as you can see we are rather diminished in terms of the benches on this side of the House because in West Bengal today we are observing Martyrs Day. Twenty-three years ago 13 young men had been killed in police firing while our leader Ms. Mamata Banerjee led demonstration for the restoration of democratic rights for the people of West Bengal. I will have an opportunity to speak once more when the Indian Institute of Technology (Amendment) Bill is brought before us.

I will not extend my discourse any further at the moment excepting to say that when this Parliament which has the sole prerogative to assign the nomenclature institutes of national importance takes this momentous decision, let us make sure that these institutes are truly of national importance. Let us set ourselves a goal that in the foreseeable future, say, within the next three to five years, at least a few of our National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research will be able to break into the top 500 of world rankings because we should not be satisfied with rankings within our own country. We have a global role to play. We must compete with the rest of the world and make sure that our students and younger generation are getting the best education possible whether in the field of science education or in the field of arts and humanities.

Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy-Speaker Sir.