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HRD ministry and Mr Controversy

For the last 190 days, I have been trying to find at least half a reason to agree with something that the HRD (human resource development) ministry does. For the last 180-190 days, their best friend has been Mr Controversy. Whatever they try to do either controversy has followed them or they have followed controversy. Be it on Teachers Day, where we are still not sure whether it was mandatory for the students to listen to their speech or they were given a choice. It was not clarified whether the prime minister’s speech was compulsory or not compulsory. Then, there was a big controversy about who had what degree, or, did not have a degree. Then, there was another controversy about which third language came and which third language went. Then, there was one more controversy about one Dinanath Batra. If you remember, he was the person who was responsible for the banning of (Wendy) Doniger’s book of Penguin India. There was a controversy as to how many meetings he was having and what agenda he was making out for the HRD. Then, there was a controversy and a concern where members of Vidya Bharati, a big educational network of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), were having meeting upon meeting…

Tarun Vijay: I am on a point of order, member has named certain people. They are not members of this august House. So, kindly have them deleted.

Deputy Chairman: You cannot take the name of any person who cannot come and defend here. …(Interruptions)…

Derek O’Brien: I am not saying anything bad. I just said that he had a meeting. …(Interruptions)…

Jaya Bachchan: He is just mentioning names. He has not said anything adverse. …(Interruptions)…

Derek O’Brien: I have not made any allegations. …(Interruptions)…

D Raja: It was just a reference, not an allegation. …(Interruptions)…

Deputy Chairman: Okay; okay. It is alright. …(Interruptions)…

Derek O’Brien: My precious time is being wasted. …(Interruptions)..

You know, Sir, when I mention that abbreviation, I know it is a touchy issue. But I have mentioned it in the past. And, I will mention it till I feel and the country feels that this educational system of ours is untouched, at least, in terms of making the majority voice the only voice.

Today, after all these controversies, I am actually delighted that I can stand up here and say, “Good, it is a good move. It is a very good move.” In fact, different people get their inspirations from different people. And, that is fair enough.

So, I heard the inspiration, which inspired this Bill when the minister was speaking about it. I also have got my inspiration from a different source. In the last three years, we haven’t had a slogan for West Bengal, no fancy slogans. But there are three or four points in the world of IT (information technology) that I want to share. So it may inspire everybody to move in this direction. For example, three years ago, there were 90,000 people employed in Bengal in the IT sector; today that figure is 120,000.

Three years ago, IT export out of Bengal was 8,000; today, it is 11,000. Today, you all have come up with this Bill for the IIITs. In June, my colleague, Finance Minister, Amit Mitra, announced in Bengal, the IIIT in Bengal, which started at Kalyani, and now it is working in a temporary campus. The IIIT is on a different mode; this is on the PPP (public-private partnership) mode; it will now move; it has a tie-up with BESU (Bengal Engineering and Science University); and it is on 50 acres. It is already working in a temporary accommodation for the last four months, and, next year, it will be on a 50-acre plot. So, this is an inspirational story from Bengal.

Specifically to the Bill, I have a couple of suggestions. One, it may be a good idea – like they do in some international universities – to provide students, when they join, with some soft loan to meet their fees and hostel charges. Some of them cannot meet those fees and hostel charges. It may be a nice idea to provide them a soft loan and then, over a period of time, when they get a job, they give post-dated cheques. So, they, in effect, are earning their education after they get a job. This is number one. And, the second suggestion I have is, again, to protect the students. There are a lot of big ideas which are technological ideas, which will perhaps come out of these institutes. Is there a way – which the minister could kindly consider – to see that the patent, when created, is held not only by the institution but the young boy or the young girl who has created that also has some right on that patent?

I am very, very happy to note that one of the strong recommendations of the Standing Committee, of which I was a part, along with Dr Mungekar and many others, that there should be some state government representation on that body, on the main body, has been accepted. That has been done. We appreciate that.

And the last point, Sir, before I conclude, is that this is one model where this is a centrally-funded model. But in the other model, which is state, Centre and PPP, there are lots of issues, especially, who gives the land. I would urge the ministry not to rush into that because that is a pretty complicated affair. I would urge you to get the states on board so that at the end of it all, everyone lives happily ever after. Thank you.


Edited excerpts from a speech made by Member of Parliament from the Trinamool Congress Derek O’Brien, during the debate on
The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Bill, 2014, in the Rajya Sabha, December 1, 2014

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