Monday, September 8, 2014

Letter to CM: Decentralize educational development following Andhra Pradesh's model

Dear Honorable Chief Minister Mr. Patnaik,
Recently through IDCO, collectors of six different districts of Odisha have been asked to identify 200 acres of land for the proposed Indian Institute of Technology (IIM) in Odisha. Though politically state Government may have played a clever game to woo different regions of Odisha, 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 Balasore where similar demands for an IIM have been made. Secondly, the present recommendations give an edge to state capital region comprising Bhubaneswar and Cuttack region. If I were the part of central Govt. selection committee, I would also select Bhubaneswar/Cuttack among the other proposed sites because of the fact that sites located around 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 criteria, many of the state Governments are recommending sites for various national institutions based on the interest of the state.  There are cases where sites located 200 km radius from a regular airport has been considered to establish a national institution like IIM.

For example, Himachal Pradesh Government has proposed a site for new IIM, which is not close to any of the regular airports.  If Andhra Pradesh Government gives an option of either Visakhaptnam or Tirupati for the proposed new Indian Institute of Tehcnology (IIT) in that state, the central Government would most likely pick up Visakhaptanam due to better connectivity. In contrary, Mr.  Chandrababu Naidu has limited his proposal  to Tirupati for IIT, Visakhaptanam for IIM, Vijayawada for AIIMS, Kurnool for IIIT, Vizianagaran for Tribal University, Anantapur for Central University, West Godavari for NIT, and East Godavari for Petroleum University to bring a decentralized development of higher education in that state.

If Odisha Government were serious about decentralization of higher education, it would not have asked for sites around state capital region including Cuttack and Bhubaneswar and limited the proposed sites to Sambalpur, Berhampur, Rourkela, Jeypore, etc. for IIM.

Definitely, for the initial interest of IIM as a premier quality institution, Bhubaneswar is an ideal place for its institutional development. At the same time an Airport also does not come in nowhere or agriculture land. Practical success of an airport needs largely development of service sector including establishment of educational and health institutions. New IIM itself could help building new airport and trigger infrastructure development in another location or hinterland of the state. 

Except state capital region, Odisha does not have a second location, which fits the bill for national level development. Bhubaneswar region is already an educational hub in the nation having multiples of national and tens of state institutions, few of the existing national institutions in Bhubaneswar even comes under institution of national importance act, therefore, presently Bhubaneswar needs ONLY to improve qualities in existing national and state institutions and not increase in number of such educational institutions.

Like few other states, if 200 km distance from any existing regular airport is enforced by Odisha state Govt. on the Human Development Ministry as a site to establish a new IIM in the state, many backward parts of the state could be brought into developmental map by using existing airports in neighbouring states. For instance, locations in Bhawanipatna, Jeypore and Rourkela may use regular airports in Raipur, Visakhapatnam, and Ranchi respectively.

Odisha state 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 of IIM itself. 

Mr. Chandrababu Naidu has proposed three mega cities in Andhra Pradesh, one in north (Visakhaptnam), second in south (Tirupati) and third in the center (Vijajawada-Guntur), and distributed all the institutes of national importance accordingly. Tomorrow Andhra Pradesh will have 3 cities to compete in the national level whereas Odisha will continue to struggle with just one. 

I suggest Odisha Government should ahead follow Andhra Pradesh’s mode of creating 3-mega regions for future.

One could be for the coast within 200 km radius of Bhubaneswar airport including Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Nayagarh, Paradeep, Jajpur, Berhampur, Balasore, 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 within 200 km radius of Utkela airport comprising Rayagada, Jeypore, Koraput, Paralakhemundi, Nabarangpur, Sunabeda, Bhawanipatna, Umarkote, Khariar, Malkangiri, Nuapada, Titilagarh, Kantabanji, Balangir, Phulbani, etc.     

I urge you to kindly decentralize 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.

Thank you and best regards

Digambara Patra

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