Govt may spend over Rs20,000 crore on six new IITs

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New Delhi: The central government is looking to spend above an amount of Rs20,000 crore to build six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) it first announced in 2015, at least two government officials said.

Of this, Rs7,000 crore will be spent in the first phase ending in March 2020 and the rest over the next four years ending in March 2024, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

New IITs incur less expense in the first couple of years as they operate from temporary premises with limited staff, research work, course and students. The union human resource development ministry, the officials said, is in the process of moving the expenditure finance committee (EFC) to get approval for the first phase. After this, it will ask the EFC to approve the rest.

In December 2015, the Union cabinet cleared the proposal to open six new IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Jammu and Kashmir. The six IITs now operate from makeshift campuses in these states.

“Unlike institutions like IIMs, IITs need much more funds to be established because of the multi-disciplinary and research nature of the IITs. Hopefully, the EFC will give a go-ahead following which new IITs will scale up their operation—both from academic and infrastructure points of view,” said one of the two officials cited above.

During the 11th Five Year Plan, which ended in march 2012, the previous UPA government had estimated to spend over Rs6,000 crore for eight new IITs. But delays in land procurement, construction and inflation pushed up costs to Rs14,000 crore.

The additional money was approved following months of deliberations after the NDA government came to power in 2014. The eight IITs are now open in Gandhinagar, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Ropar, Mandi and Patna. “This time, we are trying our best not to face cost escalation. It was a problem last time and we have learned from that experience,” said the second of the two officials. This official said land procurement was a key challenge last time, delaying construction and pushing up costs.

“Land for six new IITs has already been procured and states’ cooperation this time is good. Once the EFC approval comes, things will pick up,” the official said.

A professor from an older IIT closely associated with the establishment of new IITs said timely funding is key, and before that, states must give land to the HRD ministry for the purpose. The last time, he said some states could not provide land even after five years. Besides, in some cases, land was allocated without forest clearances leading to legal hassles, the professor said.

“Cost escalation problem arises when it’s not planned properly. While delays in construction and land procurement leads to more expense, it also hampers the IITs educationally. An IIT has its own brand value but it has to be properly supported; else, that brand equity gets hampered.

The upcoming new education policy must make it clear that new higher educational institutions should not be delayed beyond a certain time limit. Else, the intention of establishing IITs and similar institutes gets diluted. It’s not just a finance issue, but also a bigger academic issue,” said Narayan Ramaswamy, partner education practice at consulting firm KPMG.

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