IIT for us or them?

A technical team from New delhi visited Dharwad to check infrastructure for an IIT. FILE PHOTO  

No project in the recent past seems to have drawn so much controversy and inter-district rivalry as the one around the setting up of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Karnataka.

While the Centre had chosen Dharwad in the Mumbai-Karnataka region for its location, the State government is now pitching for Raichur, arguing that locating the IIT there would help in the development of the backward Hyderabad-Karnataka region which has got special status under Article 371-J of the Indian Constitution.

Raichur and Dharwad were two out of the three places shortlisted by the State, the third being Mysuru.

The choice of Dharwad has triggered protests in Raichur, with political leaders cutting across party lines from the region resolving to put pressure on the State and Central governments to change the decision.

The antipathy is so strong that organisations in Raichur did not support the Karnataka bandh in support of Kalasa-Banduri canal drinking water project that envisages water to the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad.

In fact, in 2012, the then BJP Government headed by Jagadish Shettar had recommended an IIT for Raichur. The BJP alleges that by requesting the IIT in Raichur, now the Congress is creating a rift between not only districts but also regions. Interestingly, BJP leaders including Pralhad Joshi and H.N. Ananth Kumar have claimed credit for IIT’s location in Dharwad. This region has traditionally witnessed the domination of the Lingayat community, which supported the BJP in the 2014 general elections.

On the other hand, the Hyderabad-Karnataka (HK) region has been as a traditional Congress bastion. The region accounts for 40 seats in the Legislative Assembly and the Congress won 23 seats, while the BJP managed to win just seven, in the 2013 Assembly elections. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, elected from this region, had lobbied for IIT in Raichur. 

Under pressure, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah dashed off a letter to the Centre to shift the location of the IIT to soothe the sentiments of Congress leaders of Raichur. Doing an about-turn two days later, he told people in Dharwad that it was no more than a suggestion, recalling that Mr. Shettar had suggested Raichur. Deodurg in Raichur goes to by-polls soon, owing to the death of Congress MLA Venkatesh Naik, and that too is an important player in the tug-of-war that is going strong for over a month now.

Set up NIT in Raichur: expert

S.S. Murthy, former Director, NITK Surathkal, and former Vice-Chancellor of Central University, Kalaburagi, suggested that the State government put pressure on the Centre to sanction a National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Raichur, to compensate the loss of IIT.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said Mysuru can be compensated by setting up a sub-centre of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) by acquiring 500 acres. “IISc. is still struggling with the Challakere campus and this new facility may be a boon to expand its activities, considering better connectivity to Mysuru.”’

He said Karnataka deserves more Central institutions given its population and high revenue. “Karnataka is a very big State in terms of population, area, revenue and resources and deserves increase in Central institutions when compared to many other States.”

Delhi has IIT, NIT, IIIT and two central universities (CUs) with smaller area and population. After bifurcation, both Andhra Pradesh and Telengana have one IIT and NIT each. Why should Karnataka suffer for being united, he asked.

Older issues

  • Competition or rivalry among the districts for funds, institutions or sharing of water is not new. Organisations in different districts have staged protests during the establishment of the Karnataka High Court benches. Following widespread protests, the benches were established in Dharwad and Kalaburagi.
  • In July last, Kalaburagi observed a bandh opposing granting a bench of the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal to Belagavi. Succumbing to the lobby of Hyderabad-Karnataka advocates, the government sanctioned the KAT bench in Kalaburagi also.
  • During the Cauvery water dispute, farmers’ organisations of Mandya threatened to disrupt water supply to Bengaluru alleging that the people of the city did not express solidarity with the farmers of Mandya district.
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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:37:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/iit-for-us-or-them/article7730198.ece

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