Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju has been under fire from students’ organisations for “not doing enough” to bail a premier Central technological institute in Arunachal Pradesh out of academic decadence.
The 34-year-old North East Regional Institute of Technology (NERIST) at Nirjuli, near Itanagar, has been without a regular director for more than four years now. The institute is also short of faculty members. This has left students of six engineering courses in the lurch, while many students pursuing PhD have left the institute for non-disbursement of scholarship in time. Some face a bleak future as they are almost past the age – 36 for local scholars and 32 for non-residents – of applying for jobs.
“We launched an indefinite strike on February 27 after the expiry of a month’s deadline given to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) on January 24 to appoint a regular director. We are disappointed with our MP for not solving the crisis that has put the career of more than 2,000 NERIST students at stake,” Banta Natung, president of Students’ Union of NERIST, told The Hindu on Thursday.
The students resented Mr. Rijiju’s inability to meet them despite being in nearby Naharlagun to flag off the Arunachal Express, a special AC train to New Delhi. They also said the Minister failed to ensure the appointment of a regular director within a month from October 30 last year.
“I had assured the students after the (HRD) Ministry informed me that the new director could be appointed by December 2017. But the matter got stuck in a cumbersome process,” Mr. Rijiju told reporters in Itanagar, apologising to the students for the delay.
The powerful All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has thrown its weight behind the NERIST students. “We are not blaming anyone, neither Mr Rijiju nor MHRD. But isn’t it his responsibility to see that a premier institute in his home state is not endangered?” AAPSU president Hawa Bagang said.
“Besides meeting Mr. Rijiju, we have made representations to MHRD officials and Minister Prakash Javadekar, but in vain,” Mr. Bagang said.
“Tamo Mibang, the Vice-Chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University, has been reluctantly handling additional responsibility of NERIST. He comes here sometimes for three hours a day but is in no position to handle the problems we are facing,” Mr. Natung said.
Mr. Mibang could not be contacted, but university officials said his “hands are full” with issues related to the university.