WHEN the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur admitted its first batch of students in August 1951, classes were held in a World War era detention camp and the administrative office was located in the Bomber Command used by the US Air Force during the war days. Half a century later, the fate of eight new IITs set up in 2008 across the country is no better. All of them are operating out of rented buildings, makeshift camps and campuses of other polytechnics or engineering colleges.
Plagued by poor infrastructure and faculty shortage, the eight new IITs in the country are struggling to meet the deadline for moving into fully operational campuses.
None of them are likely to meet the deadline of June 2013 set for moving into fully operational campuses. The first batch of students, set to pass out from new IITs this year, would have no real experience of life in an IIT campus.
“ We dont have enough classrooms in the building and different batches have to be accommodated in the same class,” said Hima Varsha, a first year B Tech ( Computer Engineering) student at IIT Hyderabad.
However, she said, laboratories are comfortable with all modern equipments. Since August 2008, IIT- H has been functioning from a temporary campus located at Yeddumailaram village in Medak district. “ We cannot say it is a very spacious campus or we have excellent infrastructure. It is just enough for us to manage classes. Sometimes we are compelled to run classes on evenings and also on Saturdays to accommodate all the lectures,” admits Dr F A Khan, academic dean of the institute.
In other cities, students and faculty members have to shuttle between two locations. The IIT in Bhubanewsar is operating from two temporary campuses in the city — IIT Kharagpur Extension Centre in Samantpuri and Toshali Bhavan. THE Ministry of Human Resources Development has recently been pulled by the parliamentary committee on higher education for delays in construction of permanent campuses. The ministry says land allotted for eight IITs has been handed over to them. The master plan is ready and architects have been finalised for building permanent campus by IITs at Hyderabad, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Mandi and Indore, while construction is in progress at Ropar and Jodhpur. “ All the IITs have been advised to put in place a mechanism for rigorous monitoring of the project”, the ministry has said.
" We are planning to start construction of the permanent campus very soon. By June 2014, some part of the campus will be ready and we would be able to start shifting from the temporary campus as well," said Ashwini Kumar, Professor In- Charge for Planning and Resources at IIT Gandhinagar, which is currently operating from the building of Vishwakarma Government Engineering College ( VGEC) in Ahmedabad.
While funding has not been a major hurdle for new IITs, part of the delay is due to political reasons.
IIT Jodhpur is a case in point. Ever since an IIT for Rajasthan— and not for Jodhpur – was sanctioned by the central government in July 2007, the issue of the city where it should be established became a political- shuttlecock among politicians. Meanwhile, the first academic session of the new IIT was started in 2008 at the IIT Kanpur campus with 109 undergraduate students in three streams including computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot finally took a decision in favour of Jodhpur — his home town — on the basis of recommendations of a committee set up by him. In late 2009, the centre granted final approval for Jodhpur and the IIT shifted from Kanpur to a transit campus at MBM College in Jodhpur. FACULTY shortage is another issue that new IITs are grappling with.
Each of the new IITs was sanctioned 30 faculty posts every year for the first three years. By this criterion, all the IITs should have at least 90 faculty members. But even in the fifth year of their operation, none of them have reached this level except Hyderabad which claims to have 100 faculty members.
The numbers in other IITs are — Patna ( 63), Jodhpur ( 55), Patna ( 55), Gandhi Nagar ( 75), Bhubaneshwar ( 79), Mandi ( 35) and Indore ( 38). Considering the fact that these IITs are not only offering B Tech in various streams but also M Tech and Ph D, faculty position is definitely precarious. However, the situation is different in some centres where the number of students is low. “
Though faculty shortage is an obvious handicap generally, we have a teacher- student ratio of 1: 10 since there are 570 students in the institute” pointed out Dr Vivek Vijay, spokesperson of IIT Jodhpur.
Even the older IITs are also facing faculty shortages. “ The faculty position needs to be improved if we want to attain academic excellence globally.
Currently the total number of faculty is about 575- 600 and the number of total students is about 10,000. The current faculty- student ratio is 1: 18 which we want to bring down to 1: 10 in next two years,” said B. K Mathur, dean ( administration and coordination) at IIT Kharagpur.