Take the instance of the expansion of IIT-M. Spread over 630 acres on the boundary of the Guindy National Park (GNP), the Institute was mandated to double its intake to 8000. Most of the non-Chennai students require hostel facilities. Now to expand capacity, wouldn’t IIT-M have to add to its infrastructure?
Wouldn’t that translate into felling of trees? Will it breach into the buffer zone of the GNP? Wouldn’t the increase in population add to pollution? These are some of the questions that were raised by environmentalists. And thus unfolds a campaign against IIT-M, against its expansion, against development!
There are some points that have been overlooked by those who petitioned against such development, points out sources from IIT.
Firstly, a buffer zone is the space around a park that restricts and regulates human activities for healthy survival of the flora, fauna and wildlife of the park. The GNP is a walled campus restricting animal movement, which makes the need of a buffer zone, redundant. Also, the state government has not notified any buffer zone for it. In fact, in the so-called buffer zone, south Asia’s largest 2,500,000 sq.ft. Pheonix Mall has been built.
Intake: 5000 versus 40,000
The main point is the development of education in India. Even our top institutes like the IITs do not find a place in the top 200 institutions globally. Where several universities in the US like Purdue and Wisconsin (M) impart education to over 40,000 students in sprawling campuses built by liberal land grants from the community around, the IIT-M has so far an intake of around 5000. Being the second most populous country in the world, India faces a huge supply deficit in its educational structure. Even Tamil Nadu which has 540 engineering colleges has capacity to admit students’ of 270,000, making it an average of around 540 students per college.
Expansion needs land and requires money. With land prices hitting the roof, it has not been possible to acquire thousands of acres of land needed to set up a world-class university. The state government has been keeping aloof of the IIT treating it as an alien. So, from where does one expect the IIT to procure land?
After 67 years of Independence and 23 years of economic reforms, we still do not see our institutes of higher learning aspiring for a reputation like that of a Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford, or Caltech. Let’s not head demolition squads against development; let’s be constructive in providing viable development alternatives.