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Centre for Higher Learning in Bihar - some hope and some caution

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Cool Bihari: Centre for Higher Learning in Bihar - some hope and some caution

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Centre for Higher Learning in Bihar - some hope and some caution

It is one of those 'coincidences' that not even one temple of modern learning envisaged by Nehru has found a home in Bihar. The land of Nalanda, Vikramshila and Odantpuri does not have a single IIT, IIM, central university or centrally funded medical institutes. There are no CSIR laboratories. There are no DRDO laboratories. Even the REC (now called NIT) in Bihar is a sleight of hand of the HRD mandarins by renaming a British built institutions – the Bihar College of Engineering. With such a gross historic neglect, one would have assumed Bihar to be the natural choice for the new generation institutions like IIIT and NISc. However, it appears Bihar was not even considered for these as well.

It has been usual to put the blame on the Govt of Bihar for a lot of ills, and much of it quite deservedly so. However, to put the blame on the state govt only is to see only one part of the picture. In the unitary scheme of things in the Union that is Bharat, the resources at the disposal of the central government have been far more. Its ability to dictate policy is also much more. Its ability to influence investment from outside has also been bigger. IITs got built with not a too niggardly a contribution from countries like US and Germany. IIMs received generous help from US and other universities. Unfortunately, Bihar was never on the radar of the decision makers at Delhi.Again, it is no coincidence that when US money was made available in the form of PL 480 grant to a private institution, the result was the hugely successful XLRI at Jamshedpur.

In this context, it is a welcome change to see the Union Minister of State, MA Fatmi, announcing the conversion of Patna Univ into a central Univ and the establishment of an IIT in Bihar. Both Patna Daily and Times of India have reported this news.

However, given the track record of the central govt to go back on its word and its tendency to treat Bihar and Biharis as a bunch of credulous nincompoops, we cannot but be sceptical.

We have the recent and raw wound inflicted by the finance minister P Chimdabaram who promised a special grant of Rs 5,000 crores to Bihar to combat its myriad problems. He made this announcement on the floor of the Parliament a few days within the formation of the UPA govt in 2004. In fact, his announcement so peeved the UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav and he demanded a similar grant for UP too. However, nothing ever came out of it - not even one rupee. In fact, when an MP from Bihar confronted Chidambaram on this, he tried to wriggle out saying his statement was misunderstood!!!,

Unfortunately, the national press and its "Oye Bihari Brigade", always ready to see the imaginary paan stains at Patna airport or poke fun at Lalu's 'pikdaan' and other such prominent 'news' of 'national' importance, did not deem it fit to highlight this grossly improper conduct on the part of the Teflon hero of propriety.Now the important issue is, what can we, the middle classes from Bihar do to push the case and realise our dream of having institutions of higher learning in Bihar?

I am putting up a few possibilities here:

1. Send letters of fulsome praise to the PM, the HRD Minister and the finance minister congratulating them for their decision to correct a historic wrong. It will show to them the groundswell of public opinion on the topic. Hopefully, it would put some moral pressure on them too.

2. Contact the MPs from Bihar and convey our very strong desire to have these institutions in Bihar. Urge them to have a caucus cutting across party lines. Suave and Pedantic MPs like Ravishanker Prasad, Digvijay Singh, Nathuni Ram could be possible leaders who may be motivated to take up this cause.

3. Have a candle vigil kind of morcha at India Gate, Delhi where the vast numbers of Bihari middle class of Delhi could participate. We have been accused of not doing much for the state - this can be an occasion to show that we care.

4. Invoke RTI to find out if Bihar was considered in the past for setting up institutions of higher learning and then denied the chance or it has been a case of denial by default. If it was considered and then denied, then what were the reasons behind the denial? Highlight those reasons to the Govt of Bihar so that corrective action can be taken by it.

5. Involve the retired Profs and academicians from Bihar / well meaning non Bihar academicians.

6. Have a thank you meeting at SK Memorial Hall or another prominent place at Patna to praise the decision

7. Somehow keep the issue alive in the national press - even if they lampoon the claim in their coverage, it would still help the cause.

There is a lot we can do to achieve our great dream. The apprehension is that if we dont act, the Dilliwalas wont hesitate to make a Lallu of Laluji.

By...Thakur Vikas Sinha

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