Merit and affirmative action should go together, says Sonia Gandhi
KANDI ( Medak Dt.): United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said here on Friday merit and affirmative action should go hand-in-hand while asserting that higher education was not the privilege of a few sections.
Laying the foundation stone for Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad, 42 km from the State capital, she said the UPA government had given a fresh impetus to higher education. There were 416 universities and 21,000 colleges in the country against 20 and 500 respectively at the time of independence. It was also a matter of satisfaction that the enrolment of women had gone up to 40 per cent from 10 per cent then. However, there was still a great deal of work to do. She said it was planned to set up in the next three years, 30 new Central Universities, eight Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs), seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), five Indian Institutes of Science (IIScs), 21 Institutes of Information Technology (IITs) and 10 National Institutes Technolgies (NITs). The Centre was also assisting the States in the establishment of 374 new degree colleges and 600 polytechnics in educationally backward and deprived districts. The UPA government’s initiative to give top priority to elementary education and Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan was beginning to have impact in educationally backward States.
The government had expanded the mid-day meal scheme which was a crucial pre-requisite to increase retention in primary schools. As many as 15 crore children had benefited from the scheme which she described as unique in the world.
She said that scholarships for weaker sections were increased sharply to enable the students pursue professional courses. Also, 10 lakh boys and girls took advantage of the liberal loan scheme.
Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari hailed IITs as global brands. The American Congress had passed a resolution a couple of years ago acknowledging the contribution of IITians to the US economy, she said.
Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Technical Education Minister R. Chenga Reddy and Professor M.S. Ananth, Mentor Director, IIT Hyderabad, were present.