New Delhi: Emphasising that education is "beyond politics", HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar today said the government will make all efforts to fill vacancies of faculties and ensure students get quality education.
"Education is beyond politics... We should all resolve to work unitedly to improve education," he said and assured that adequate funds would be extended for research works at educational institutions. He was replying to a discussion in Lok Sabha on a Bill to establish the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Andhra Pradesh as an institute of national importance.
Later, the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the House through voice vote. Crediting all the previous governments for the expansion in the field of education over the years, Javadekar said education was not a priority for the British and the strides have been made in independent India.
Compensation, freedom and accountability are key for good teachers, the Minister said as he stressed the need for imparting quality education. "(Teacher) vacancies will be filled," he added.
A proposal to have a fund, which can go up to Rs 20,000 crore to help with infrastructure requirements and research activities at top educational institutions, would be taken to the Cabinet, Javadekar said.
In the Union Budget, the government had announced that it would set up Higher Education Financing Agency with an initial corpus of Rs 1,000 crore. On queries related to high fees being charged at higher education institutions, Javadekar said at NITs and IITs, there is fee waiver for SC/ST students and those with physical disabilities.
"It is not a case of reimbursement, it is fee waiver," he said. For the NIT in Andhra Pradesh, the government has provided 140 acres of land and Rs 40 crore has been budgeted for this and "we will immediately come on the decision on DPR and release more funds," he said.
At present, NIT in Andhra Pradesh is functioning in another college campus. The Bill, when it was envisaged in 2007, had 20 national institutes. Then, in 2012, five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and 10 new NITs were added to it, Javadekar said.
In 2014, there was one amendment for one institute in Bengal. "So, they became 36, and today, we are adding one more and that makes it 37 national important universities out of which 31 will be NITs," he noted. "The government is thinking of a higher education funding initiative which would go to the Cabinet and the central idea is the initial corpus would be Rs 1,000 crore and there would be a bank or some other body which would monitor it," Javadekar said.
"That will leverage the funds through market and can provide up to Rs 20,000 crore for upgradation of all kinds of infrastructure. I have already mandated that 40 per cent of that money should be invested in improving the research infrastructure," the HRD Minister said.
Earlier, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said instead of increasing the number of national institutes of technology in the country, the government should focus on improving its quality and pump more funds. "I am not opposing this bill but we all want the institutions to be solid one and equipped with faculty" and other fundamental infrastructure, he said.
Citing certain data, he said 900 students are already enrolled in NIT, Andhra Pradesh but there is complete scarcity of resources and infrastructure. "It is running in a temporary infrastructure, there are no laboratories and no library," he said, adding "can you imagine an engineering college without labs and proper faculty?"
He said the government took this decision in a "haste" and "there is a larger problem behind this bill". There is huge shortage of faculty in IITs and other important institutions and some institutions are running out in half built campuses, he said.
He noted that there is a problem in higher education system in the country as it is highly regulated and under-governed. Tharoor said companies like Tata and Infosys appoint candidates from engineering colleges and again put them for training.
They have their own institutions and many teachers are joining those institutions as the pay scale if good there, he said urging the government to "focus on quality and not on quantity".
He also demanded implementation of the recommendation given by Kakodkar Committee on NITs. "You are sitting on that for last two years".
"Why we are interested in increasing the number of NITs and not improving the quality...we can be building big ships which can stand in ocean and not in small boats," he said. He pitched for "infusing more funding in NITs" and other such institutions to improve the quality and incentivisation to promote innovation.
On shortage of faculty, he said the website content of NIT, Andhra Pradesh is not good and it cannot attract faculty. "We need to change the ecosystem.. Let us make it an institution of truly national importance," he added.
Rejecting Tharoor's views, Hari Babu (BJP) said the government has not taken this decision in haste. He requested the HRD Minister to fastrack the construction process of all the institutions in the state.