Thursday, 11 September 2014 | DIGAMBARA PATRA | in Bhubaneswar
Through the Idco, the district Collectors of six different districts have been asked to identify 200 acres of land for the proposed Indian Institute of Technology (IIM) in Odisha.
Though politically the State Government may have played a clever game to woo different regions, it appears that actually it is not serving the interest of inclusive growth of the State.
First of all, the State Government completely forgot other districts like Balangir, Kalahandi, Angul, Dhenkanal and Baleswar where similar demands for an IIM have been made. Secondly, the present recommendations give an edge to State Capital region comprising Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. If I were a part of the Central selection committee, I would also select Bhubaneswar/Cuttack among the other proposed sites because of the fact that the sites located around the State capital region has the advantages of the entire existing infrastructure along with an international airport in a close distance.
Despite airport being given as a criterion, many of the State Governments are recommending sites for various national institutions based on their best interest. There are cases where sites located in 200 km radius from a regular airport have been considered to establish a national institution like the IIM.
For example, the Himachal Pradesh Government has proposed a site for the new IIM, which is not close to any of the regular airports. If Andhra Pradesh Government gave an option of either Visakhaptnam or Tirupati for the proposed new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the Central Government would most likely pick up Visakhaptanam due to better connectivity. On the contrary, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has limited his proposal to Tirupati for the IIT, Visakhaptanam for the IIM, Vijayawada for the AIIMS, Kurnool for the IIIT, Vizianagaran for the Tribal University, Anantapur for the Central University, West Godavari for the NIT and East Godavari for the Petroleum University to bring a decentralized development of higher education in that State.
If the Odisha Government was serious about decentralization of higher education, it would not ask for sites around the State capital region including Cuttack and Bhubaneswar and limit the proposed sites to Sambalpur, Brahmapur, Rourkela and Jeypore, etc for the IIM.
Definitely, for the initial interest of the IIM as a premier quality institution, Bhubaneswar is an ideal place for its institutional development. At the same time, an international airport also is not found in any other part. But the reality is practical success of an airport needs largely development of service sector including establishment of educational and health institutions. New IIM itself could help build new airport and trigger infrastructure development in another location or hinterland of the State.
Like a few other States, if 200 km distance from any existing regular airport is enforced by Odisha for establishing the new IIM, many backward parts could be brought into developmental map. For instance, locations in Bhawanipatna, Jeypore and Rourkela may use regular airports in Raipur, Visakhapatnam, and Ranchi respectively.
The Odisha Government’s main priority should be to create few badly needed mega cities or urban clusters geographically distributed in Odisha for long term competitiveness of the State in the national level instead of just meeting the short-term institutional growth like having an IIM itself.
Naidu has proposed three mega cities in Andhra Pradesh, one in north (Visakhaptnam), second in south (Tirupati) and third in the centre (Vijajawada-Guntur), and distributed all the institutes of national importance accordingly. Tomorrow Andhra Pradesh will have three cities to compete in the national level whereas Odisha will continue to struggle with just one.
I suggest the Odisha Government should follow Andhra Pradesh’s model of creating three mega regions for future.
One could be for the coast within 200 km radius of Bhubaneswar airport including Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Nayagarh, Paradip, Jajpur, Berhampur, Baleswar, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar etc.
Second mega region could be for the north part of the State within 200 km radius of Jharsuguda airport including Rourkela, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Brajaraj Nagar, Barbil, Angul, Bargarh, Sonepur, Boudh, etc.
And the third mega region could be for south part, especially for the backward KBK-Kandhamal-Gajapati region comprising Rayagada, Jeypore, Koraput, Paralakhemundi, Nabarangpur, Sunabeda, Bhawanipatna, Umarkote, Khariar, Malkangiri, Nuapada, Titilagarh, Kantabanji, Balangir and Phulbani, etc.
Therefore it is highly needed that the State Government decentralise educational development in Odisha, especially giving priority to mega clusters that lack educational and infrastructure development in airport instead of just meeting institutional need of the proposed IIM.
(The writer, who hails from Odisha, works as Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry in theAmerican University of Beirut, Lebanon)