The former Union Minister, Arun Shourie, said on Saturday that academic institutions of excellence such as the Indian Institutes of Technology should be left to work autonomously without government interference.
He was speaking at the Dr. Homi Bhabha Centenary Conclave, a three-day event that began at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) here on Friday. The conclave brought together former recipients of the Homi Bhabha Fellowship. Mr. Shourie himself was a recipient.
Mr. Shourie said the TIFR, an institution of excellence, thrived because of its autonomy. “Mr. J.R.D. Tata entrusted Dr. Bhabha, and so did Pandit Nehru, with the job of setting up an institution of learning and research of the calibre of the TIFR.”
He said Dr. Bhabha’s approach was of “unobtrusive oversight.” Contrasting the TIFR with the institutions of today, Mr. Shourie said they suffered because they were unduly “besieged by the government.” “Nine new IITs were announced despite a teacher shortage,” he said. “IIT-Rajasthan was announced two-and-a-half years ago. The head of the institute was appointed two years later. Still, the site for the institute was not decided. The Chief Minister wants it in his constituency, while his predecessor wanted it in hers. Therefore, it was decided that the IIT-Kanpur would house it, thereby burdening the parent institute.”
On the first day of the conclave, the emphasis was on performing arts. Doyens of Indian theatre and cinema Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Satyadev Dubey and Mohan Agashe came together for a discussion.
Reminiscing about how he got the fellowship, playwright Girish Karnad said it was because of the fellowship that he was able study the raging debate of the 1960s on the role of traditional Indian art forms in the theatre of the day. “After studying folk theatre traditions of a number of places such as Karnataka, Kerala, and Bhubaneshwar, I came out with ‘Hayavadana’,” he said, “and the response was electric. Vijay Tendulkar came out with ‘Ghashiram Kotwal,’ while Habib Tanvir made ‘Charandas Chor’.”
For his fellowship application, Mr. Agashe brought together the two fields closest to him — theatre and psychiatry —and studied how theatre was therapeutic. And on Saturday, he delivered a lecture on ‘Health in Cinema and Cinema for Health.’
For his fellowship, Mr. Benegal went to the United States and Japan to study the role of television shows in making the transition from oral to literate learning for children. After returning to India, he made 29 programmes for children. He was influenced by shows such as ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Catch 44.’
Mr. Dubey let his play do the talking. His Marathi interpretation called ‘Sapadlelya Aahvani’ of Mr. Karnad’s original play ‘The Wedding Album’ was staged at the TIFR auditorium.
On both days, there were a number of lectures delivered by former scholars on archaeology, forgotten art forms and mathematics, among others. The second day ended with a dance recital on Siva’s cosmic dance by Sharada Srinivasan. It explored the confluence of metallurgy, art and astronomy.