Union human resources development minister Smriti Irani’s decision to set up eight new IITs has sparked an interesting debate. Students from the older IITs have begun an online petition seeking review of the move, and 6,000 signatures were gathered in less than a week.
The petition, submitted to the minister online by IIT Kharagpur student Digvijay Patil, sought that the infrastructure of existing IITs — there are now 16 of them — be strengthened and upgraded first, before new institutes are started.
The petition received overwhelming support from the student community, and messages have been pouring in endlessly on social websites like Facebook and messaging network WhatsApp.
Available reports indicate that existing IITs in India have 6,591 sanctioned posts. Only 4,079 have been filled, a mere 62% of total requirement. Among these faculty positions are also teachers on visiting, adjunct and contractual arrangements.
What is more, the eight IITs set up in 2009 have not yet shifted to permanent campuses.
Students fear that if eight new institutes are set up in such a situation, they will be no better than the eight struggling IITs set up in 2009. Such a state of affairs would result in the dilution of the IIT brand, said Manu Agarwal, a student of IT at the Banaras Hindu University-IIT.
Agarwal pointed out that the average strength of any IIT is around 1,000 students, while the eight IITs set up in 2009 have confined the maximum number of students to 500.
What this means is that these eight IITs have been running at half capacity because of the lack of teachers and necessary infrastructure.
In many IITs, students share rooms meant for single occupancy in the hostels, and three students are sometimes expected to live in rooms meant for only two. Laboratories and classrooms are inadequately furnished, Agarwal said.
Given that the HRD minister has expressed willingness to scrap the controversial four-year undergraduate study programme in Delhi University, IIT students too hope their petition will be heard.