Two National Institutes of technology have been recently established in North East India, one in Meghalaya and the other in Nagaland. The noteworthy point about them is that they have been located away from the capital town, which means that at least some rural people will have access to it. In Meghalaya it is in Cherrapunjee, and in Nagaland on the outskirts of Dimapur. The Union HRD Minister went to both these places to inaugurate them. What he said however in Nagaland, surprised me a little. Replying to the Nagaland Chief Minister's request that an IIM be set up in Nagaland, he did not encourage the idea because he thought the local people would not benefit, as very few students from North East India, and Nagaland in particular make it to these Institutions. Instead he said, he wanted the local youth to benefit, like having more Polytechnics, than Engineering Colleges for example.
Though his intentions may have been earnest, I find this strange and warped logic. Once a National Institution is established in backward regions of the country, the local people get more exposure, by way of interaction, information and knowledge. Secondly, it can attract good teachers, if not some of the very best teachers from different parts of the country.
IIM Shillong has introduced short term management courses related to areas such as sports etc as training programmes for the benefit of the local people. These are envisaged on the lines of professional training programmes of short term duration, the certification for which will help the local people of the state. Moreover, most of these courses are free of cost. IIMs set up in semi rural or rural areas or for that matter any professional institute will have to contextualize their academic programmes in the area of local or indigenous support. In other words, they have to think out of the box and develop short term modular training programmes targeted for the local youth, who can get immediate benefit out of them for self employment, employment or upgrading in their existing professions. The traditional MBA Degrees or Diplomas will continue, but the idea is to focus on local needs such as indigenous production of goods, artisanship etc. The overall framing of such institutes will have local thrust and responsibility.
Next, as the existence of such an institute continues I am sure the local youth will be motivated to get admission and work hard enough for this. So, in the near future, we can expect local students to get admission into the mainstream academic programmes. But just to dismiss this proposal in a facile manner is I think not only presumptuous but a little fool hardy. We must concentrate on academic development of North East India if we are thinking of the so called mainstreaming of the people especially the resilient youth of North East India. The progress in education in Nagaland has taken strides but more must be done in the areas of technical education. We hope wisdom prevails in our education policy makers and they do not de-link education with national development. In fact, education lies at the core of such development, the very fact that only six to seven percent of our GDP is allocated to education shows our lopsided policies.