Thursday, July 17, 2014

Let’s demand for an IIM but let’s have a look around our neighborhood first!

An Appeal to Concerned Citizens of Western Odisha...

Each time the Government of India declares its plan to establish a national institute, hopes surge in the western districts of Odisha.  People here, especially the intellectuals and concerned individuals, start mobilizing public opinion in order to influence the government of Odisha to establish the same here.  Then starts district wise lobby.  Each district level lobby group showcases the respective district’s advantages and strengths.  Most of the times our region fails to get the attention of the Odisha Government and such institutes are always established in Bhubaneswar or a place close to this capital city.  We don't lose our hope and sharpen our steps for the next opportunity to come.

Good that is.  Good also that we have stepped up our efforts to lobby for establishment of an IIM (Indian Institute of Management) in western Odisha.  Ever since the Finance Minister of India declared, in his this year's budget speech, that one of the newly proposed IIMs would be set up in Odisha, people from Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh and Balangir (as far as I know) have started demanding for locating the same in their respective districts.  I don’t know who wins this time – these districts or the state capital and it's periphery, if at all that is called a win.  However, I am sure we are not heading for any drastic development in our educational scenario even if we have an IIM here. At least I know the poor of the state will continue to be largely deprived of good education.

Let me first dwell upon some issues that I think are important to ponder with regard to the proposed benefits of an IIM in our region.  For few years from now, it will open the opportunity for local business persons and contractors who would be engaged in the construction works.  Before the IIM comes up in its own building, some local private house owners would get income by renting out their facilities to faculty, students, construction company personnel, etc.  The local market will benefit by an ounce or two as a hundred and two new people will buy consumables, clothes, etc. etc.  That is the immediate economic benefit.  Travel business, hotel business, etc. will also benefit to some extent.  On a long term, as the institution establishes and settles down; some of these local economic benefits would continue, but most of it may discontinue as the institute would have its own infrastructure including staff quarters. 

Now, let’s consider the educational advantage to local students. The IIMs take students from an all India entrance test and even if we are very optimistic, ten to twenty students from Odisha may be able to study in this institute per year.  Well, there may be many more benefits from housing an institution in our districts. I may not be knowing many of those.  So, let’s still think that we need to have an IIM in our region and fight for that.

However, as concerned citizens, let us first look around our neighborhood for the quality of institutions we have.  I am not sure how many of the people who are at forefront of the lobby groups have looked into the existing institutions of western Odisha, beyond the gates and buildings.  I am also not the competent person to comment on the quality of education some of these technical institutions are impacting.  As a general observation, I can only say that most of the students prefer institutes at Bhubaneswar more than our institutions.  In fact there is a deliberate attempt by the education industry – aided by our political leaders and bureaucrats – to kill all other institutions around the state to support the Bhubaneswar based education businesses.  We have fallen prey to that and to counter that, an IIM here may help by just a bit. 

Then, let's talk about the the general institutions starting from our primary schools.  Are they competent to build students who will quality for an IIM?  Or, we would land up in the same business processes where children have to pay lakhs of rupees in private coaching at Bhubaneswar to get a seat in IIM and other institutions? I am sure many of the people at forefront of this fight know how treacherous a life many of our students lead in Bhubaneswar to take those private (commercial) coaching classes.  If not, I request them to visit the hostels in which students from our districts are staying to know what a real torture is going on in Bhubaneswar all in the name of education.  

In my opinion, while we can fight for establishment of many institutes, our major focus should be strengthening all the existing educational institutions starting from primary ones to higher education level and then technical institutes in our area so that they provide equal opportunity and educational justice to all the students of the region.  The current system of education is a money game that benefits the 'education mafia' and it is not going to end with establishment of any number of national institutions.  

Suggestions are most welcome to build citizens actions on the existing educational system.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda

Mobile: +91-94370-50103

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