A bill to bring four institutes of information technology under the ambit of a single authority and help students get degrees was today passed by Parliament.
The Indian Institutes of Information and Technology (IIIT) Bill, 2014, was passed by Rajya Sabha by a voice vote. It had received the Lok Sabha's nod on November 26.
Seeking to allay apprehensions about saffronisation in education, government today asserted in Parliament that every decision in this field will be taken as per the "spirit of the Constitution".
HRD Minister Smriti Irani sought to downplay her meetings with RSS ideologues and Sangh organisations, saying it was her responsibility, as a Minister, to listen to all stakeholders who are related to education.
"Whatever steps the government of India takes with regard to educational institutes and institutions, it is my commitment that these will be taken as per the spirit of the Constitution," she said in Rajya Sabha while replying to a debate on a bill on IIITs.
Her assertion came against the backdrop of concerns voiced by some sections in the recent times about education being saffronised. These concerns found echo in the House with some members like D Raja (CPI) saying that education under the NDA government was going the "right" way.
Derek O'Brien (Trinamool Congress) also mentioned that controversy and apprehensions had arisen after Irani met some Sangh ideologues.
Strengthening the apprehensions was the recent move by the HRD ministry to replace German with Sanskrit as third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas.
Irani said students passing from these institutes will now get degrees and the government would make all efforts to attract the best of faculties.
She in particular referred to the agonies of the students of IIIT-Kancheepuram who were awaiting their degrees since 2008 due to non-passage of legislations governing IIITs.
Allaying apprehensions, she said the reservation policy will also be applicable to the IIITs in student admission and in recruitment of teaching and non-teaching staff.
Replying to members' comments on the autonomy of these institutes, Irani said, "The governance structure of these institutes will be like that of the IITs and NITs which were based on the Central Universities Act as passed by Parliament."
To comments made by O'Brien that controversy follows her HRD Ministry, Irani said, "Controversy would evade me if I maintain status quo. If I challenge status quo, controversy is bound to happen."
In this regard, she reminded the TMC member about her meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee for over a hour in Kolkata on matters concerning education, which had also raised "murmurs" in the corridors of power.
About IIITs, Irani made it clear that these institutes will be "autonomous" and UGC role will be to only notify the nomenclature of the course
The Act will give the IIITs independent status with uniform policy framework.
The declaration of the IIITs as institutions of national importance is being initiated with a view to providing manpower of global standards for the information technology industry.
IIITs, which receive grants-in-aid from the government, were sanctioned Rs 649.86 crore during the 11th plan period to meet their recurring and non-recurring expenditure. These institutes at present are fully funded by the central government but do not enjoy statutory status.
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the previous session in August. It was originally introduced in 2013, but lapsed with the 15th Lok Sabha as it could not be passed by the previous government.
Significantly, a provision to establish 20 new IIITs under PPP mode has been dropped in the new Bill.
D Raja (CPI) emphasised on continuing with reservation policy in board of directors, council, recruitment and admissions of the IIITs.
Sanjay Singh (Cong) demanded an IIIT for Amethi represented by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, saying he had initiated the digital revolution in the country.
Basawaraj Patil (BJP) raised concern about the best of minds going abroad.
Ashok Ganguly (Nom), Bhupinder Singh (BJD), K T S Tulsi (Nom) Vandana Chavan (NCP) also spoke.