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IIITs hit stumbling block; troubled IT firms may not fund

December 16, 2008 09:46 IST

The global economic slowdown is casting a shadow of doubt on the Union ministry of human resources development's ambitious plans to set up 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology, even as differences over autonomy have been solved.

The idea of Indian Institutes of Information Technology was conceived to develop professional expertise and skilled manpower in information technology and related areas to meet the challenges being thrown up by the rapid global IT revolution.

Around eight IT companies had committed to partner the government to set up 11 out of the 20 IIITs but are now planning to back out since their own businesses are suffering, sources in the Planning Commission said.

"The support looks difficult to come by. We have already received intimation from a few companies in this regard," a Planning Commission member told Business Standard.

The member declined to name those who had withdrawn but added that they counted among the country's top IT companies.

"Some had committed to setting up one IIIT and others had promised financial assistance for more than one institute. These companies had committed funds of over Rs 100 crore towards each IIIT," said a source, who is on the board of one of the IT companies that has committed to setting up an IIIT.

Sources said in the new IIITs, the government is considering a model in which the private sector and government will be equal stakeholders, investing Rs 50 crore each.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development, sources said, was even planning to start classes from temporary campuses as it has done in the case of three new Indian Institutes of Technology which are operating from make-shift campuses in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. They are being mentored by the older IITs -- Delhi, Chennai and Bombay respectively.

The government has already set up four IIITs in Gwalior (1997), Allahabad (1999), Kancheepuram (2000) and Jabalpur (2005). Three others have been set up by the state governments in partnership with the private sector in Hyderabad, Kerala and Bangalore. The IIIT in Bangalore has Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy as the institute's chairman.

The plan to set up 20 new IIITs was proposed by IT industry body Nasscom in May 2008. The body presented a model Detailed Project Report (DPR) involving partnerships between the central government, the respective state governments and IT companies.

Last week, the government decided that while the new IIITs will enjoy autonomy, the government can question their functioning if the need arises.

A committee set up to examine the proposal has submitted its report suggesting that the Planning Commission should leave it to the state government to give land to identify the place and industry to support the ventures.

The committee has suggested that the government should give importance to north-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir which does not have a single IIIT. The proposal will come up for Cabinet approval soon.

Kalpana Pathak in Mumbai
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