Monday, September 26, 2011

UNGA Applauds PM’s Statesmanship

By T.P.Sreenivasan

Diplomats at the UN, burdened by the weight of their national
positions, do not applaud statements by leaders of other countries
except at the end of their speeches as dictated by tradition. They
rarely burst into applause over an idea or a declaration as nothing is
taken at face value. Speeches are for analysis in depth for new
nuances in policy. But they applauded Dr. Manmohan Singh when he read
out a short paragraph on UN reform.

“We must address the issue of the deficit in global governance. We
need a stronger and more effective United Nations that is sensitive to
the aspirations of everyone- rich or poor, big or small. For this, the
United Nations and its principal organs, the General Assembly and the
Security Council, must be revitalized and reformed. The reform and
expansion of the Security Council are essential if it is to reflect
contemporary reality. Such an outcome will enhance the Council’s
credibility and effectiveness in dealing with global issues. Early
reform of the Security Council must be pursued with renewed vigour and
urgently enacted,” Dr. Manmohan Singh said.

What attracted attention was the clear and forthright statement on
reform, which can be endorsed by 193 member states, including the
permanent members. All of them acknowledge that the Security Council
needs reform to reflect contemporary reality and to enhance its
credibility and effectiveness. But if the Prime Minister had gone
beyond this even to say that both the permanent and non- permanent
categories should be expanded, the applause would have been less. If
he pleaded for G-4 or went into the merits of India’s claim, he would
have been greeted with stony silence. By speaking for all nations
without going into details, India expressed its confidence that it
cannot be excluded if the Council is expanded. This was more effective
than the usual assertion of the Indian claim on every occasion.
Statesmanship and restraint have paid off instantly. Whatever he may
have discussed with his counterparts in the corridors, the position he
articulated in the speech was dignified and it helped to remove the
impression that securing permanent membership was India’s highest
priority in the UN.

In fact, the whole speech of the Prime Minister at the General
Assembly this year was statesmanlike. He spoke not just for India, but
for the world and sought solutions for the economic and political ills
of the world. He plunged straight into the economic scene without much
of an introduction and identified the adverse impact of globalization.
Coming as it did from Dr.Manmohan Singh, the assessment seemed
surprising. Though he did not go into remedies, the diagnosis clearly
indicated that the globalization did not yield the kind of results
expected of it.
Given the atmospherics in New York, which focused on the Middle East
in general and Palestine in particular, Dr.Manmohan Singh could not
have skirted the problems of the region. Though the Arab Spring was
inspired by a welcome demand by the people for the right to shape
their own future, the consequence was spiraling price rise and
instability. The steadfast support for a Palestine state was balanced
by asserting the need for the region to live in peace with Israel. The
strongest political message he delivered to the west was, “The
observance of the rule of law is as important in international affairs
as it is within countries. Societies cannot be reordered from outside
through military force.” But he did not spare authoritarian regimes.
“Governments are duty bound to their citizens to create conditions
that enable them to freely determine their pathways to development.
This is the essence of democracy and fundamental freedoms”, he said.
In other words, the Prime Minister categorically stated the rationale
behind the positions adopted by India in the Security Council in the
last nine months. Together with his meeting with the President of Iran
and the announcement made in New York that he would visit Iran, the
Prime Minister’s statement may well be taken as a signal that India
was expanding its options all around.

The Prime Minister spoke of terrorism, encouraging signs of
cooperation in South Asia, need for reconciliation in Afghanistan,
piracy, disarmament and safety of nuclear plants, the international
issues that have been engaging his attention. He also gave
considerable attention to the old and traditional links with Africa
and the Least Developed Countries. The only references he made to
domestic issues, which were dogging him to New York was about poverty
alleviation and the importance of a democratic, plural and secular

UN speeches are not occasions to change policy, but to elaborate
national positions in a manner that will influence friends and
adversaries alike. Dr. Manmohan Singh clearly gave the impression that
he was resorting to some of the old ideological strains and old
constituencies to signal his disappointment with the west. But he did
it in a language which nobody would take exception to. As the adage
goes, a diplomat is a person, who can make someone look forward to the
trip if he is asked to go to hell.

Having been a ghost writer of UN speeches for prime ministers and
foreign ministers, I know the processes and procedures that go into
the exercise of preparing speeches. Inputs come from various sources
and it is a challenge to create a cohesive and comprehensive speech
from a multitude of drafts. One foreign minister had the habit of
asking various officials and academics for ideas for the speech and it
was hard to wade through the flood of material that came in. Often,
the speech became a tour d’ horizon, stretching into several pages and
covering much of the agenda of the General Assembly. The speech this
time had the merit of being elegant, precise and brief. It provided
the backdrop for Indian positions in the General Assembly and the
Security Council.

Foreign visits and UN accolades give some relief to Prime Ministers
when they are under siege by intractable domestic issues. The case of
Dr. Manmohan Singh was no different, with one of the scams exploding
at the very time he was meeting his counterparts and giving thought to
the global economic and political challenges “at a time of great
uncertainty and profound change.” The applause in the General Assembly
was not drowned out by the opposition in India and the PM’s world view
appeared to enjoy consensus back home, not a mean achievement in these
turbulent times.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Clouds over nuclear power


Fukushima has dropped off the radar screens around the world even as the affected people and the Japanese government are still trying to cope with the devastation caused by the nuclear meltdown. The situation is still so sensitive that the Japanese minister of trade and industry was forced to resign after making thoughtless remarks on what he saw in the affected areas. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stopped issuing daily updates, but with a dire statement on June 2: “Overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious”, nuclear power enthusiasts around the globe cannot but remember the words of the IAEA evaluation group: “Nuclear designers and operators should appropriately evaluate measures for protection against the risks of all natural hazards and should periodically update these assessments”. Fukushima continues to cast its long shadow on nuclear power everywhere.

The renewed protests and fasts at Koodankulam have received little attention in India, but questions are being asked in nuclear circles about the safety standards of the reactors there. Russian technology, tainted by Chernobyl, has always been of concern, but Koodankulam is vital for India’s nuclear power development. Even before the India-US nuclear deal, it was possible for Russia to supply reactors and fuel as the contract dated back to the pre-NSG days.

No doubt, Koodankulam has to go forward for our immediate needs and any setback will be costly. The only option for the government is to take necessary and immediate action to convince the people about safety and to rehabilitate the displaced people. A disaster relief programme should also be put in place. We should take Sri Lanka into confidence about the safety standards at Koodankulam because of its proximity to the nuclear station. Issues raised by clustering of nuclear stations raised after Fukushima should also be examined. The call by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, followed by a resolution of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet, to halt the project till the settlement of the issues raised by the protesters is realistic and timely. The concerned central minister has assured the protesters that safety will take priority over power production. This is the principle that should apply in general to every power project that is constructed. No amount of declarations by scientists will allay the fears, because they are presumed to have vested interests. What will reassure the public more is an assurance that India will develop alternative sources of energy to reduce its dependence on nuclear power.

At the very time that the Koodankulam protests were gathering momentum, the chairman of our Atomic Energy Commission announced at the general conference of the IAEA that the first unit was set to begin operation and that the second unit was also on course. This is not the first time that the disconnect between science and politics has been on display in India.

A report by a number of Russian government agencies submitted to President Dmitry Medvedev has revealed that Russian atomic reactors are grievously under-prepared for both natural and man-made disasters. In an annex to the report, 31 serious flaws that make Russia’s nuclear industry extremely vulnerable are catalogued. This contradicts Russia’s claim that its reactors can withstand any natural calamity. The authorities have responded by saying that heavy investments can rectify the flaws. The question is whether our authorities have taken note of the report and taken follow-up action with the Russians.

An explosion in a French furnace dedicated to melting of low level radioactive waste on September 12 has been treated as an industrial rather than a nuclear accident on the ground that there was no radiation outside the plant. But it is still not clear what set off the explosion. Considering that every part of the nuclear industry raises safety issues, are we in touch with the French to learn more about the accident? The IAEA appears silent on this as it was only an industrial accident. Our involvement with France is deep already and it is likely to be the expanded further. Any development in the nuclear industry in France should be a matter of anxiety to us.

The latest report from Vienna is that India intends to delay the import of French reactors till we get new test results. According to the French energy minister, India wants a ‘post-Fukushima’ certification before finalising the multimillion dollar contract. This is welcome news for those in Jaitapur and elsewhere.

The recent earthquake of 5.8 magnitude, followed by cyclone Irene, on the east coast of the US also had its impact on the public perception of nuclear power. The earthquake caused the shutdown of two reactors in Central Virginia. Fortunately, the safety measures kicked in promptly and nothing untoward happened. At least 18 reactors at different locations in the US declared unusual events and six reactors scaled down production during the cyclone period and these are still being investigated and analysed.

A new country to disavow nuclear power is Taiwan. In Germany, Siemens has just declared that it will keep out of the nuclear industry. As for Japan itself, it is now well known that its nuclear industry is poised to shrink dramatically over the next decade. If the Daiichi plant was decommissioned in February this year, when it completed its life span, a major tragedy could have been averted.

India can no longer ignore the clouds gathering on the nuclear firmament and proceed with business as usual. Fukushima has caused reactor orders around the world to be scrapped, frozen or delayed. India’s own ambition to export our small reactors may have become unrealistic. The argument that the movement against nuclear power has arisen out of vested interests cannot be sustained any longer. The development argument can be accepted in the short term till we develop alternatives. But India can no longer stick to its position that it will pursue the path of developing nuclear power for all time to come. There is force in the argument that the seven per cent nuclear component we want to achieve in our energy mix can be replaced with other forms of energy if we have the will to do it. We should be able to envision a nuclear power free world in the long term so that the people will accept development of nuclear power in the short term. The concern is basically more about the hazards for future generations than about immediate danger.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PM steps on to the shifting sands at the UN

By T.P.Sreenivasan

The belated decision of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the UN General Assembly after a break is wise, though a more timely decision would have made the visit more fruitful. More than anything else, the trip will ease the impression both at home and abroad that he is bogged down in corruption scandals and is in no position to interact with the world, not to speak of taking international initiatives. The argument that prevailed in the decision must have been that as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, India is in the limelight and the positions our Permanent Representative has taken in the Security Council need to be backed by the political leadership. The Prime Minister may not have any initiative to announce in his speech, but his view of the world will be of some significance at this time of "unbridled consequences". India cannot but be seen to be capable and willing to play a role in the unfolding drama on the world stage.

A mistake that can be made, however, is to give the impression that the Prime Minister is on a hunt for what has come to be known as the "Holy Grail" of Indian foreign policy, namely, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai rightly emphasised other issues of importance to India, such as finding solutions for global economic and financial problems, counter terrorism, peacekeeping operations etc together with securing a robust and all inclusive role for all members of the UN. He, of course, mentioned the G-4 initiative and our decision to pursue reforms.

The buzz that a decision on the Security Council expansion is close at hand is misleading. Our goal of being a permanent member with the same rights and privileges as the other permanent members cannot be achieved under the laid down procedure for amendment to the UN Charter. It will be too revolutionary a change for the permanent members and others to accept at this time. The best that can be accomplished is the creation of a new category of members, who may serve longer terms on the Council. Such an expansion will not be in the spirit of the argument that the Security Council should reflect the realities of the present. The latest proposal for an "interim solution", which seems to gain momentum in Europe is even more dubious, because the idea of longer terms for some non-permanent members, if adopted as an "interim solution", may close the door for a comprehensive expansion. India's claim has been established and generally accepted and we should express confidence rather than appear anxious to accept a "quick fix".

Qatar, which has assumed an international profile beyond its size because of its wealth and imaginative initiatives, happens to be the President of the 66th UN General Assembly. Coincidentally, the present session of the General Assembly is preoccupied with Arab issues, with the perennial Palestine issue demanding immediate attention on account of the declared intention of Palestine to seek full membership of the UN. Palestine's options range from going to the Security Council and getting a veto from the United States to seeking an enhanced observer status through a majority vote in the General Assembly. Whichever option that Mahmoud Abbas chooses, the most he can achieve is to convince Israel and the US that they have to face the issue of statehood sooner rather than later. Frantic efforts are on to avoid a showdown and thus Palestine has already succeeded in emphasising that the US and Israel should engage in more equitable negotiations. But Palestine faces accusations of unilateralism and efforts to illelegitimize Israel. At the same time, as Ambassador Gharekhan has ponted out, Israel and the US have a stake in the continuation of Abbbas as the leader of Palestine. "Neither Israel nor the US will find any one as reasonable as Abbas, who may feel obliged to take some drastic step in case his initiative fails, such as resigning his post, thereby leaving the field to extremist elements among his people", he observes. Ideally, the Security Council should move for a two-nation solution with borders of 1967 in place with Jerusalem divided into two capitals. But the time has not come for such a solution as yet.

India has no dilemma on Palestine as we recognise Palestine as a state and we can vote for any Palestine move even though our relations with Israel has become crucial. Israel has shown understanding of the Indian compulsions in supporting Palestine and any effort on our side to moderate Palestine will not be of benefit to us. As a consistent supporter of Palaestine, we have no role to play as an intermediary.

We have to tread cautiously on the "Arab Spring" issues, particularly on Libya and Syria. We have already made amendments for our abstention on Libya in the Security Council by joining the Friends of Libya group and by recognising the National Transitional Council. On Syria, we have moderated the condemnation of human rights violations and moves for drastic sanctions so far. But these efforts by the west will gain momentum during the session with more countries expressing opinions on Syria, though the action will remain in the Security Council. The US has already expressed disappointment that India has demonstrated its old "nonaligned mindset" in dealing with the Arab Spring. A more realistic approach in facing the inevitable should be attempted even though we cannot go along with regime changing intervention. We should be able to support some kind of humanitarian intervention, if necessary, in some situations.

Since the Prime Minister is not meeting either President Obama or a Pakistani leader, much of the hype about a visit to the UN will be absent this time. President Obama has other preoccupations and India -US relations are in such a state that a meeting cannot lead to any spectacular results. But the US goals and priorities, outlined by the State Department augur well for multilateralism. In a departure from the attitude of the Bush Administration, Washington now believes in constructive engagement of the UN system and avoids threats of disengagement and non-payment of dues as pressure tactics. By working with the UN system, they have been able to get results on Libya, North Korea, Iran. Syria etc and even recognition of gay rights as human rights. We have an opportunity to work with the US also on development issues by supporting initiatives on non-communicable diseases, nutrition etc for which high level meetings have been held.

Bilateral meetings are the staple of General Assembly sessions. A visit to the UN during the General Debate is like visiting a hundred nations and a head of state or government, who is agile and not too concerned with protocol can get business done by "running into" their counterparts in the halls or the corridors. Indian leaders generally prefer more formal meetings, but even these can be valuable. It may appear ironical that our Prime Minister should travel all the way to New York to meet the leaders of Nepal or Sri Lanka, but the ambiance of the UN is more congenial to interact even with close neighbours. The leaders of South Sudan, the newest member of the UN, can also be cultivated during the visit. Turkey's emergence as a key player during the current session should also receive our attention.

The President of the General Assembly, the veteran Qatari diplomat, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, has identified four priority areas for action during his term. The role of mediation in peaceful settlement of disputes, his highest priority, may cause us some headaches because we do not accept mediation in our own problems with Pakistan, but as long as the countries involved in the disputes want mediation, we do not need to object. UN reform, his second priority, improving disaster prevention, his third and sustainable development and global prosperity, his fourth priority match our own thinking and open out possibilities for us to work with him.

Al-Nasser said on assumption of office that the General assembly is an "opportunity to define our place in this decisive moment in history and to prove that we have the courage, wisdom and tenacity to seek creative and visionary solutions". He said, even more significantly, "the sands are shifting." Our Prime Minister is not new to shifting sands either domestically or internationally and he is sure to tread the sands with sure feet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The case for an IIT in Kerala- A Letter to the Chief Minister

Shri Oommen Chandy September 15, 2011
Hon'ble Chief Minister, Government of Kerala
Dear Sir,
We, the undersigned, are a group of intellectuals who have been associated with one or more of the Indian Institutes of Technologies in India as students, administrators, faculty or governing board members.
We are all keen to ensure that an IIT is established in Kerala too. We are aware that the Government of India is considering establishment of 5 more IITs in India. We are concerned that Kerala’s legitimate demand for an IIT will be overlooked this time also for political or other considerations.
We believe that the claim of Kerala for an IIT is more legitimate than even before and the clout of Kerala in Delhi is the highest ever. We have the same alliance as ruling party in both Center and State and we have representatives of the same party in the Education and Human Resources Ministries in Kerala and India respectively. We, therefore, believe that the time is NOW to make a determined effort to bring an IIT to Kerala.
We are, therefore, writing to you to seek your personal attention in doing the appropriate political and administrative groundwork to make a case for an IIT in Kerala. We know you need not be convinced about the legitimacy of Kerala’s claim, but in order to illustrate the need to bring IIT to Kerala and the strength of our case, we have put together some facts and figures. This concept note is attached for your kind perusal.
We, the members of a voluntary group, stand ready to assist you in any way possible, in making IIT Kerala a reality. We have been encouraged by hundreds of other intellectuals who have been associated with IITs and see the importance and legitimacy of our demand.
Thanking you,
Yours sincerely
(A.E. Muthunayagam) (T.P. Sreenivasan) (Nivedita P. Haran)
(M.P. Rajan) (Muralee Thummarukudy) (K.V. Jayakumar)
(Job Kurien) (P.S. Robi ) (Narayanan Komerath)
(V.K. Mathews) (Ramesh Chandra) (C.M. Abraham)
IIT Kerala - A Concept Paper
Establishing an IIT in Kerala is a long standing demand and dream of highly literate Kerala for many years. Various Governments have taken the initiative to bring an IIT to Kerala, but somehow nothing has materialized yet. In support of the Government of Kerala's steps to bring an IIT to Kerala, a group of well-wishers has come together and prepared a concept paper. We trust that this will help the Government to look into the problem more seriously and make all the efforts needed to bring an IIT to our state. The committee listed below was formed by the group to prepare this concept paper, and acknowledges the support and input from other members and stake holders of the intellectual group of IITians from Kerala. Our concept paper addresses the following points:
Executive Summary
• Does Kerala need an IIT?
• Does Kerala deserve an IIT?
• Does an IIT help the state in its future development?
• Steps to be taken by Kerala Government to get an IIT and finally
• Conclusion
Members of the Committee
1. Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, Former Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Madras
2. Mr. T.P. Sreenivasan, IFS, Ambassador (Rtd)
3. Dr. Nivedita P. Haran, IAS, IIT-Alumni
4. Prof. M.P. Rajan, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Thiruvananthapuram
5. Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy, Chief, Disaster Risk Reduction, UN Enviourn. Programme, Geneva
6. Prof. K.V. Jayakumar, Executive Director, CWRDM, Kerala
7. Prof. Job Kurien, Indian Institute of Technology Madras
8. Prof. P.S. Robi, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
9. Prof. Narayanan Komerath, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
10. Mr. V.K. Mathews, Executive Chairman, The IBS Group, Thiruvananthapuram
11. Mr. Ramesh Chandra, Managing Director, Ranal Ltd. Bangalore
12. Mr. C.M. Abraham, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Thiruvananthapuram
There have been sporadic requests in the past thirty years for an IIT in Kerala. However, of late we do not hear that. This is not because we have an IIT or a comparable technical institution in Kerala now. This is partly because we have been tired of asking for one during every expansion and being rejected. We were promised an IIT in the previous expansion but unfortunately we lost the battle to get this premier institution to our state.
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) were established as the premier institutes of our country with the focus of training talented minds in becoming creative, top quality engineers and scientists . The intention was to generate high calibre human capital to help the nation in its socio-economic development. The IITs are governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 which has declared them as “institutions of national importance” with autonomous status. There are 15 IITs at present in India. A committee headed by Dr. Anil Kakodkar was constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India to suggest the road map to develop the IITs as world-class institutes for research and higher learning. They recommended another five IITs to be created within a decade. Now many states have an IIT, as per the data given below in Table I.
Name of the IIT
Year Established
IIT Kharagpur
West Bengal
IIT Bombay
IIT Madras
IIT Kanpur
Uttar Pradesh
IIT Delhi
IIT Guwahati
IIT Roorkee
IIT Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh
IIT Gandhinagar
IIT Patna
IIT Rajasthan
IIT Bhubaneswar
IIT Ropar
IIT Indore
Madhya Pradesh
IIT Mandi
Himachal Pradesh
Table I: List of IITs in India
IT-BHU is in the process of being named as the 16-th IIT resulting in UP getting two IITs in the same state. But Kerala's dream of getting an IIT is still a distant dream. Should we not get one among the 4 being considered for establishment? If our state government does not pursue this matter urgently, we will once again lose a golden opportunity to get an IIT. The neighbouring state of Karnataka has also been asking for an IIT in their state for many years.
Examples around the world show how a state gains economic advancement from having an institute that imparts and performs top quality education and research. Kerala now has around 120 engineering colleges, including many private colleges which are set up Capitation Fee business plans, one State University of science and technology, one National Institute of Technology, one Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, one Space Institute and one Indian Institute of Management. However, competing with the best in the world, requires a merit-based, autonomous technological institution with world-class infrastructure. We lack that. The recenly-established IISER is promising, but is mainly set up for education in basic sciences.
IITs are known worldwide for their quality in technical education. The fact is that an IIT is not just a big engineering college, better NIT or a fully residential technological University. IITs are a group of autonomous engineering and technology-oriented institutes of higher education. As mentioned earlier, the IITs are governed by the Indian Institute of Technology Act, 1961 which has declared them as “institutions of national importance”, and lays down their powers, duties, and framework for governance. This Act provides IITs with substantial administrative freedom and total academic autonomy. This freedom has been zealously guarded by all the IITs for past 60 years. Most importantly, IITs have the faculty and administrators needed to enforce a proud tradition of purely merit-based admission and grading systems. This is crucial to providing opportunities and nurturing the best of India, regardless of non-merit considerations. Selection of students and faculty in IITs is done transparently leading to some of our best brains entering IIT as students and faculty. It is the combination of these factors which makes IITs one of the most prestigious and the only globally recognised academic institutions in India.
Each IIT has autonomous status, where admission for undergraduate and post graduate programs is decided through common admission tests. In addition to these each IIT also offers Ph.D programs. Since the IITs are Central Government institutions, the Government of India has deployed considerable resources to these institutes to give them the required physical infrastructure. The faculty-to-student ratio in the IITs is envisaged to be around 1:9. In order to encourage students from all economic strata to undertake higher studies, IITs provide scholarships to students to pursue M.Tech. and Ph.D programs, where research is an integral part of their education. The combination of the resources and branding ensured that the best students in the country were attracted to IITs. Academic freedom, availability of physical resources to undertake research and presence of quality students in turn attracted good quality faculty to join the IITs. IITs are also different from other engineering colleges or Universities primarily in the degree of autonomy that the individual faculty members have in framing the syllabus considering the latest technological trends, teaching approaches and evaluation methods. These features enabled IIT alumni and faculty, within a few short decades, to build the international brand recognition that the IITs enjoy today, on par with top institutions worldwide that have existed for hundreds of years. Below we review some of the features of the IIT experience.
Each IIT has an Academic Senate consisting of all Professors and student representatives with the Director as the ex-officio Chairman. The Senate controls and approves the curriculum, courses, examinations and results, and appoints committees to look into specific academic matters. The Senate also periodically reviews the teaching, training and research activities of the institute to maintain educational standards.
All the IITs follow the continuous evaluation system. The B.Tech course is based on 4-year program. In all IITs, the first year courses are marked by a common course structure for all the students. These include the basics from most of the departments such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, mechanical engineering, mechanics, electronics, biology, etc. All the students also have to choose between NCC, NSS, NSO to instil a sense of team effort and national pride.
From the second year onwards, the students study subjects exclusively from their respective departments in addition to some compulsory advanced courses from other departments in order to broaden their education. At the end of the third year, undergraduate students have to undertake a summer project in industry or at a reputed academic research institute as part of the curriculum. Most of the students are placed into industrial and research organizations during the last year of their studies through the placement cell. Each IIT has a central library holding a large collection of high quality books, journals, periodicals, multimedia facilities and electronic libraries. They also provide access to on-line journals and periodicals for use by students, and stay open late into the night.
The striking feature of all the IITs is the on-campus residential facilities for the students, research scholars and faculty. This feature facilitates all the students to concentrate on academic activities round the clock. The students can approach faculty members at any time to discuss academics and research. During their project period, the students can also work in the laboratories even during night hours. In addition, the gymkhana and sports facilities are an integral part of the IIT system, where the students get a chance for extra curricular activities and personality development.
The focus of the national institutes of importance such as IISER and IIM are scientific education and research and, management respectively. IIST, a supporting institute of ISRO, is focused on training personnel for ISRO, rather than on a broad technological education. The NIT has neither the infrastructure nor the other unique features of an IIT that would enable growth towards world-class recognition.
Science is the foundation of technology; however, technological innovation is what drives further scientific development as well as economic growth. The growth in scientific and technological development is an indication of the growth and development of a state or nation. Our state needs an IIT to help Kerala rise to our true potential.
Out of 28 states and 7 union territories, 14 states and one union territory have IITs (see Table I). We analyse the question of Kerala's claim to have an IIT in the state using a few objective criteria:
• Population Size
• Literacy
• Economy
• Geography
3.1 Population Size of the State
With 14 of the states and one Union Territory already being awarded an IIT, and UP possibly getting second IIT shortly, let us look at the states which have not yet been awarded an IIT. It is also useful to compare Kerala's position with other states already having an IIT with respect to population size. Kerala accounts for 2.76% of India’s 1.2 billion population.
Population Rank
Population(2011 Census)
% in Total Population
Jammu & Kashmir
Arunachal Pradesh
Table II - Population of states not having IIT
Population Rank
Population(2011 Census)
% in Total Population
Himachal Pradesh
Table III - Population of states having IIT but less than the population of Kerala
From Table-II and Table-III we see that four states with population less than Kerala already have IITs. Karnataka is the only state having population 5.96% , above Kerala in population; however, we note that Bangalore already has the world-renowned Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management. We wish Karnataka well, and point to the economic and technological development that these institutions have already brought to our neighboring state. The rest of the states have population less than Kerala. Hence, in terms of size of the population, Kerala certainly is overdue for an IIT.
3.2 Literacy
Malayalees have always led India in our thirst for knowledge. Kerala has for a long time been the most literate state of India, even in the 1960s when our state was desperately poor. As per the 2011 census, Kerala still holds the first position with 93.91% compared to the national rate of 74.04%. Kerala thus will naturally lead the table of the states which do not have an IIT. Ironically, Kerala even tops the states which do have an IIT. With so much emphasis placed on education, it is only natural that Kerala should get due consideration for the establishment of the next IIT.
3.3 Economy
In order for a state to make full advantage of an IIT, it is important that it has an economy which is able to at least partly make use of the intellectual capital present and generated in the IITs. The new strategy for IIT expansion places an increased emphasis on academy-economy linkages. It is, therefore, useful to check how Kerala ranks among those states which do not have an IIT.
Size of Economy in Indian Rupee(10 Million)
%of Total GDP
Per Capita Income
Jammu & Kashmir
Arunachal Pradesh
Table IV - Economy of states not having an IIT
Similar to population, it is also useful to check how Kerala ranks with those states which do have IITs.
Size of Economy in Indian Rupee(10 Million)
%of Total GDP
Per Capita Income
Delhi (UT)
Madhya Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh
Table V - Economy of states below that of Kerala but having an IIT
The domestic GDP rate of Kerala is 3.7% holding 9-th position at the national level with average per capital income of Rs. 59,179. From Tables IV and V, it is clear that at least 8 states who had their economy smaller than Kerala have been granted an IIT. Moreover, Kerala holds second position in GDP among states that do not have IITs. A summary of the above discussion comparing Kerala's position with states having an IIT in terms of population, literacy and economy is presented in Chart I and a respective criterion comparison with states that do not have an IIT is presented in Chart II.
Chart I: Comparison with states having an IIT
Chart II: Comparison with states that do not have an IIT
3.4 Geographical Proximity
Government of India has sanctioned IIT in other states by taking in to account various factors. Regional balance is one of the important criteria that any Government may consider while making such an allotment. Since the most prestigious programme in IITs are its undergraduate programme, the geographical proximity to an IIT is critical in terms of parents feeling comfortable to sent their wards to IITs. Map I shows the location of various IITs in India.
Map I: Location of IITs in India
It also shows that the densely-populated, highly literate southwest part of India is devoid of IITs. Let us compare the geographical clustering of location of IITs. Kerala is the southern-most state of India. The closest IIT to Kerala is in Chennai, which is around 800 km from Trivandrum and on an average 600 km from anywhere in Kerala. The next closest one is in Mumbai followed by Hyderabad. If we look at Chennai as a hub of southern part of India, IIT Chennai is far away from Kerala. If we take Delhi as the centre of northern part of India, within 6 to 7 hours journey, there are at least 4 IITs. That is, within 300 to 400 KM circle there are 4 IITs. Within 500 km of Kolkata or Mumbai, there is more than one IIT making the IIT more accessible to students of those states.
Apart from all these objective criterion, Kerala holds the first position in the human development index. Kerala has achieved significant improvements in conditions of living, infant mortality rate and social development that are comparable to those of many developed countries, even though the state's per capita income is low in comparison. We also note again that although Karnataka does not have an IIT, it has a national institute of importance, Indian Institute of Science ( IISc ) which has undergraduate and post-graduate level degree programs in both Science and Engineering. That institute is at par with an IIT. Therefore, Kerala can be considered as the frontrunner of getting an IIT. Hence, Kerala's claim to have an IIT in the state is more than fair, it is urgent and undeniable.
One of the major criticisms raised against IITs is that IITs are nothing but a processing centre for facilitating brain drain. The IITs have been successful in preparing students to compete with the best anywhere in the world. This is proven by the fact that many, in fact a good proportion, of IIT graduates have gone abroad or taken careers which are not related to engineering. Some argue, albeit without merit, that these alumni do not contribute to the original objectives of IIT or of the state. The concept of “brain drain” and the narrow vision of what an IIT graduate can do in life, are both outdated and discredited. It is worthy to note that IIT graduates are sought out as students for masters and Ph.D programs by the top institutions worldwide. Many have earned their higher education and returned back to India with that experience. IIT graduates who stayed back in India have chosen a range of career paths from Engineering to Management to Civil Service to Entrepreneurship. It is now well established that regardless of the path they chose, they have excelled in their career field and contributed to the confidence of emerging India. A few names noteworthy are: Shri N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys, Dr. Subba Rao, Governor of Reserve bank, Shri Anil Agarwal, Shri Nandan Nilekani, etc. In the following, we would address the key benefits of having an IIT in the state. Events in the past 20 years have completely debunked the “brain drain” superstition. The contribution of IIT alumni to the revolution in computer and information technology is well-known. The rise of India as a superpower in that field is directly attributable to the excellent preparation imparted by the IITs and IISc, as well as the contributions of their alumni who first showed that Indians could compete worldwide, then opened the doors for Indian workers and exports all over the world, and today they are building the most innovative industries in India. Today the revolution in manufacturing is spreading rapidly to all fields. It is hard to see how any of this could have happened so quickly, if Indians were unwilling, unable or too lazy and backward to venture out, perform and compete with the best in the world.
There is no system of state or regional reservation in the IITs. Having an IIT in Kerala does not guarantee any more seats for Malayalees than establishing a new IIT in the Andaman or in Jammu and Kashmir. Some might therefore ask "Is there any benefit to the State?". At the undergraduate level, the mere presence of an IIT would boost the motivation of the school students of Kerala to try for admission in IIT. For instance, it is a fact that IIT Chennai has many students who got admission from local Chennai colleges. The same is true of IIT Mumbai, Delhi and Kharagpur. The statistics of IIT Guwahati would reveal that there was a continuous increase in the number of students getting admitted to IITs from the north eastern regions since its inception in the year 1994. However, the benefit to a state from having a top post-graduate technological institution, can be easily seen from the growth stories of California and Massachussetts in the USA, and from Japan. There is no substitute for the advantage gained from having world-class research facilities and researchers located within easy access. Thirty years ago, Kerala may not have had the business capital and transportation access in the state to justify having such an institution. But today the story is very different. Kerala has excellent international airports, as well as world-class businessmen and the capital to put the best ideas developed here, to the best use.
Improvement in Higher Education System: Establishing an IIT in Kerala will give a big boost to the higher education scene in Kerala. The first change is in seriousness and professionalism. IIT students and faculty take education very seriously, and consider themselves to be competing or at least benchmarking not against the best in their home town but the best in the entire world. The first and most stunning impact that an IIT has on a new student from a small town or village is the experience of being surrounded by the best in India (and the world), and realizing that one has to perform at a level that is far different from what was sufficient in one’s previous school. In the old days, telephones, transportation and money were more difficult to access, so that there was no way to turn around and call for help or run back home, and merit was the only way to get good grades from IIT professors. Even today it remains true that one has no one to turn to except oneself to make the necessary changes to one’s discipline and level of effort. This basic difference in mindset brings several positive changes. To begin with we will have an institution with a global brand to which we can look up with pride. The flexibility for frequent course restructuring depending upon the current needs is the most advantages point in the IIT system. As IITs are networked with engineering colleges under a Quality Improvement Programme, they will boost the quality of teachers in engineering colleges all over the state. The engineering college teachers in Kerala will get a chance to carry out research in their institution in collaboration with IIT even while carrying out their normal teaching at their parent institute. The qualifications and quality of these teachers can thus be improved. With a few exceptions, at present there is a lack of qualified teachers in almost all the engineering colleges in Kerala. In addition, the presence of an IIT would help engineering colleges of the state to get better higher education by enrolling their teachers in the masters and Ph.D programs under various categories such as part-time, self financed, and sponsored candidates.
The Government of India is promoting the creation of increased collaboration between IITs and local industries as well as supporting the creation of industrial innovation units. Both of these give a boost to the industrial scene in Kerala in the Information Technology (IT) and manufacturing arenas. Most IITs also run specialized programmes for state services, such as pollution control boards, which also will result in capacity building in the state.
Socio-Economic Development: The above development in higher education will in turn strengthen Kerala's plan for creating a good industrial climate in the state. The higher education system especially plays a major role in economic growth and it is an indicator of the prosperity of a nation. Scientific and technical education is critical to India’s aspirations as a leader in the global knowledge economy and in social development. Having an IIT in Kerala helps the state to play an active role in national development. Kerala will definitely emerge as a preferred destination for quality education and research in the global map due to its natural beauty and geographical location.
An IIT in Kerala will naturally increase the number of young Keralites who will get into the IITs. This is so because the presence of an IIT in Kerala, and possibly having an opportunity to visit it or hear more about it will prompt more youngsters to work harder to get into the
IITs. Some students, especially from economically backward families, will find it more financially manageable if the IIT is in Kerala than in a distant place. Finally, women students, who are at least equally represented among the top rankers in mathematics and science in Kerala’s high schools, will find more opportunities to get the unique advantages of an IIT education because parents will find it much easier if they are attending an IIT inside Kerala.
IIT is currently a global brand in academic excellence and presence of an IIT in Kerala will act as a magnet to attract investment in high-tech industry to Kerala in the long run. It is well known around the world that when there is a critical mass of research activities, bright young people and atmosphere conducive to entrepreneurial activity, high tech industry will prosper in that area. While NIT, CUSAT and IISER all can contribute to forming that critical mass, only IIT can bring the global brand in terms of technology. So, if Kerala aspire to move into the big league in being the preferred destination for new generation of industries, we must have an IIT. The best technological institutions in the world today, all have highly successful “industry incubators” located on campus, to develop their ideas into competitive, well-paying enterprises.
General Impacts: Looking at a wider perspective, one has to accept that IIT is not just an educational institution imparting education. It also provides service to the society. Apart from teaching, the faculty members are continuously involved in research. University research is critically important because it
• is of strategic importance for the nation,
• contributes to the growth of the Indian industries,
• helps the local society by finding solutions to their needs,
• disseminates technology for the upliftment of the rural sector,
• provides consultancy services to industries and finally
• leads directly to the creation of innovative, leading-edge enterprises.
In India today, research projects train and employ a large number of technically qualified personnel. Working in these projects, qualified students from the local area get admission to M.Tech and Ph.D programs thereby they are able to pursue their higher education. Though there is no regional reservation for the candidates to take part in these activities, simple statistical data analysis would reveal that the candidates from the particular state hosting a particular IIT is benefited maximum due to the geographical location. The above features are true of any research, but the critical advantages of a world-class research program are yet to be realized in most of India, where research projects appear to make improvements to what is already being done elsewhere. One only has to wonder why the strongest and most innovative military and the most lucrative early years of new industries, always seem to come from places that invest in leading edge research.
There are few key things the state Government should consider while making an effort to bring an IIT in Kerala. In fact, a planned strategy is required. The key points to be emphasised are:
i. Availability of Land
ii. Location of the Institute
iii. Future of the Institute
Dr. Anil Kakodkar’s Committee has given certain guidelines to MHRD to start new IITs. The Committee clearly specified in recommendations that the objective should be "to add more quality IIT" rather than just another IIT. The objective should not be to duplicate an existing IIT but to establish institutions that will bring to the table something new that the established IITs could not do. More care and attention in planning is emphasised in the recommendations.
The first and foremost recommendation is identifying the site. The Committee mentioned that "The site should be near to an industrial area and or complementary educational institutions with good access including an airport." This Committee reemphasis this point.
Generally, an IIT requires about 500 acres of land in a single location as specified in the above para. It is not a difficult task for any state to acquire this much land for establishing an IIT. Location is most important in many aspects such as
i. Fast development of the institute
ii. Industry-academy interaction
iii. Collaboration between like-minded institutions
iv. Attracting the best faculty to the institute.
An institute starting in the outskirts of a city with good infrastructure, connectivity and industrial presence would give a boost to the development of the institute. The state Government will have to take a proactive stand in acquiring land without giving any preferences which are of a political, regional or personal nature. The goal should be to bring an IIT to Kerala. Hence we suggest the name as "IIT Kerala" like IIT Rajasthan. It should be an IIT for every Keralite. A new IIT should not be under the clutches of an existing IIT, but rather under a visionary Director with a team of dedicated task force that can make a difference. The best example is IIT Guwahati which came to existence in the midst of political unrest in one of the most remote and industrially undeveloped region of India. Looking in to its contribution in terms of development of the region, rural sector, educating the teachers of the region, industrial growth, human resource development, technology incubation centre, etc., IIT Guwahati within 15 years, has emerged as an institute which is on
par with the older IITs that were established around 40 years ago. Probably we should explore this aspect to make IIT Kerala as a world-class institute.
The time is ripe for the intelligentsia and politicians to make a determined push to get an IIT in Kerala. Almost all major states have one and there is no more serious competition. Secondly, there has been no time in Independent India’s history when Kerala had so much clout in Delhi in both political and administrative circles. Finally, the political constellations between the Centre, the State and the HRD ministries in both, are most favourably aligned. The Committee recommends that the state government should act quickly but with a determined and pragmatic approach keeping in mind that the state should receive the maximum benefit from this opportunity.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Narayanan More Credible than Roemer
By T.P.Sreenivasan
Former National Security Adviser and present Governor of West Bengal, M.K.Narayanan had barely taken off from Thiruvananthapuram after honouring Ambassador Nirupama Menon Rao with the Sree Chithira Thirunal award for outstanding achievements, when the news broke out about the latest Wikileaks revelations. The report was that Narayanan had indicated to the then US Ambassador, Timothy Roemer, that India was not serious about the demand for extradition of David Headley. In a cable to the State Department in December 2009, Roemer said that Narayanan had suggested to him that the Government was not actually keen on the extradition issue, but wanted to be seen to be insisting on it. According to Roemer, Narayanan told him that “it was difficult not to be making the effort” but the Government was not seeking extradition “at this time”.
Roemer was apparently trying to convince Delhi that the threat of extradition to India could cause Headley’s cooperation to dry up, but that by allowing the judicial process to continue, more information could be obtained and passed on to India. He claimed that Narayanan showed understanding of the American position. Certain sections of the press and the opposition rushed to the conclusion that the Government was guilty of doubletalk and that it was never serious about bringing Headley to book.
Narayanan told the press in unequivocal terms that India had always been serious about Headley’s extradition and he did not convey anything contrary to Roemer. As for the correspondence between Roemer and the State Department, the questions should be addressed to the Americans, he said. This should have ended the speculation, but the talking heads on national and regional television channels continued to speculate over the conversation, seeking to find motives of both sides. Asked about the wording of the leaked cable and Narayanan’s response, I said on television that it was a matter of Narayanan’s words against Roemer’s and that we should give greater credence to Narayanan than to Roemer. My reasoning was simply that Narayanan had nothing to gain by misrepresenting the Indian position to Roemer, while the latter had to impress upon his Government that his demarche on the phone was very effective. Ambassadors are known to write their cables in a way that pleases their masters back home. These are not recorded conversations, but first person accounts from memory, which could lead to wrong interpretations in cold print. As long as there is no change in policy and the Americans are as keen on finding the truth as we are, there is no cause for concern.
Apart from the embarrassment that this cable has caused, Wikileaks have caused considerable damage to diplomacy as a profession not only in the US, but also worldwide. Diplomats should have the facility to convey information and opinions to their Governments without any fear of their getting into unauthorized hands. Much of international diplomacy is conducted in unofficial conversations over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or a meal. There will be no note takers or pieces of paper so that diplomats can explore different ideas without being held to any specific positions. But even informal conversations have to be reported home as policy inputs. The fear that these communications will come out in the open will inhibit diplomats from engaging in these conversations, which are the life blood of diplomacy.
As for the US diplomats, the damage is even more as people around the world will be reluctant to confide in them. Surprisingly, very few American ambassadors have lost their jobs on account of the embarrassment of Wikileaks, but many careers may have been affected by the indiscretions that these cables have revealed. If Jyoti Basu or Pinarayi Vijayan, the hard core communists and US baiters felt confident about sharing their thoughts with US diplomats, that was because the feeling that their conversations would remain confidential. Wikileaks must have closed those windows of opportunity forever.
The furor that a meeting that some of the communist leaders had with the US Consul General in Chennai and his Political Counsellor was amazing as it is no secret that at least three Ministers of the former LDF Government in Kerala had taken missions to the US with the specific purpose of seeking investment and other kinds of cooperation at the very time when their leaders were opposing the nuclear deal and soon thereafter. Perhaps, the factional fights within the Communist Party in Kerala may have fuelled the fire because the ideologue, V.S.Achuthanandan was clearly hostile to the US officials while the Party boss, Pinarayi Vijayan not only solicited direct investment, but also played down the agitation against Coca Cola as a local problem in the area it was held. The Party had even opposed the appointment of someone, who was on the Board of Coca Cola as a member of the State Planning Board. The Wikileaks cable noted this divide in the Party.
Even more importantly, the Kerala Wikileaks revealed that two Ministers confided in the Americans that there was a Muslim fundamentalist menace in Kerala and that foreign funding was available to them. A Minister in the current Government was accused of having been supportive of such groups for political reasons. The Americans must have been very attentive to such allegations as they were looking for clues around the globe about the spread of terrorism. All concerned have denied that they had said such things to the Americans, but, as it happens, the Americans seemed to have greater credibility with the public than our politicians. Funnily enough, the very politicians, who were dismissing Wikileaks as American lies, had no qualms about quoting the same Wikileaks to score points over their opponents.
With all the problems that Wikileaks unleashed, the silver lining was that no Indian diplomat or senior official was caught saying anything improper to the Americans. Narayanan was no exception. Many of them, who were quoted in the cables, said nothing out of line with policy. Some of them were even frank and forthright with the Americans about US policy. But the politicians did not come out so well as some of them appeared to show off their influence or knowledge even to junior US diplomats.
Wikileaks came like the sun rising at midnight or someone peeping into the makeup room of a play behind the stage. They revealed some of the raw material which goes into diplomacy, which is rarely seen during the day or on the stage. But such raw material too is an essential ingredient of international intercourse and it should be seen as such. But what matters is what the nations do in the daylight and the actors do on the stage. Modern technology has affected all professions and diplomacy cannot escape it, however conservative that profession may like to remain. But it will be a pity if Wikileaks rob diplomats of their ability to engage in informal discussions and to convey their assessments to their Governments without fear of being exposed.