Asserting that India was committed to providing quality education to the poor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said that his government had taken several initiatives to achieve this goal by setting up several technical institutions, including six new IITs, in the current academic session.
Inaugurating the global Pan-IIT conference in Chennai through video conferencing from his office in New Delhi, he said: "I am proud of the fact that we are able to start six new IITs in the academic year 2008-09. We also initiated a second wave of institution-building, and promoted excellence."
Apart from the new IITs, the government is in the process of setting 30 Central Institutes of Excellence, 10 National Institutes of Technology, 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIIT), two Indian Institutes of Science (IISc), two Schools of Architecture and Planning, and 1,000 new polytechnics across the country in the next five years.
"We also need to be alive to the need for providing access to quality education to the poor and the disadvantaged. Our Government has implemented a series of scholarship schemes for the under-privileged sections of the society, which I am confident, would help us make the growth in educational opportunities inclusive," he said.
It was India's "destiny" to become a knowledge power, Singh said adding the IITs, had contributed "handsomely" in the country's efforts to realise this destiny.
The IIT community was acknowledged as a community that had contributed very significantly to the knowledge economy and knowledge society, globally and in India, he said.
The IIT impact study released by him had validated this assessment, the prime minister said, adding that the bigger opportunity today was that such a large and rich community was available for generating ideas and initiatives that may help translate the emerging wonder of 'India at 60' into the embodied success of 'India at 75'.
There were many reasons for the success of the IIT system and the most important was their autonomy, the prime minister said. The need was for more autonomy, he said.
In the last six decades the IIT system had produced over 1.7 lakh (170,000) graduates. It was estimated that about a third or more of these alumni had found opportunities in other countries where they are universally acknowledged to be leaders in their fields of endeavour, he said.
"They have played an important role in technological breakthrough around the world and in changing the image of India in the West. The vast majority of IIT alumni who have remained at home have become leaders in their own right within India. Many of them are brilliant academicians, passionate research scientists, path-breaking thought leaders, enterprising industry captains, leading policy makers and society's change agents," Singh said.
Talking about the new IITs, he said they would take time to fully blossom. "It is particularly important that the Pan-IIT alumni support the creation and development of the new IITs, which are in their embryonic stage in every possible way. Individually, while each IIT represents academic excellence, together, the IITs as a system of technological education and research are world-class, consistently ranked very high in most global surveys and are unique in the world," he said.
He also called for strengthening of the faculty of the premier technical education institutes and stressed the need for better research capabilities.
"In this context, I welcome the contribution that IIT alumni from around the world are making to their alma mater," he said.