The decades-old demand for an IIT in Andhra Pradesh is finally being met, thanks to the Other Backward Classes reservations row, which led the Centre to announce the setting up of three more IITs during the Eleventh Plan period.
Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy recently announced in the state legislative assembly that he had received a communication from the Union human resources ministry in this regard.
The government is planning to provide over 500 acres of land as requisitioned by the Union ministry free of cost at Isnapur near Patancheru, 35 km from Hyderabad, even while considering other alternative locations to allow the central official committee to choose the best place.
But why Andhra Pradesh? With the private sector getting unleashed in engineering education by the previous state government to meet the enormous demand for skilled manpower coming from IT and other sectors, Andhra Pradesh -- with around 300 colleges with a capacity of about 95,000 seats -- now stands top in producing engineering graduates, compared with any other state in the country.
It is a now completely transformed state when it comes to engineering education, compared with the time the demand for an IIT was made.
Initially, it was just an elitist aspiration to have an IIT. Later, the demand for the country's premier technology institute was gradually rooted into the competitive performance being shown year on year by the students from Andhra at the national level admission tests into premier professional institutions such as this.
A landmark role in this respect was played by a retired mathematics teacher, popularly known as IIT Ramaiah, who started an IIT coaching academy in Hyderabad way back in 1985.
The state started off by sending 30-40 students to IITs at the beginning of the emergence of exclusive coaching centres such as the one set up by Chukka Ramaiah, which is the single largest contributor of candidates getting admission into IITs in the state. Now, almost 300-400 candidates from the state are being selected for admission in the IITs each year.
Top rankers in the state level Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test prefer IITs over other institutions in pursuit of higher studies.
After Ramaiah actively voiced the demand for an IIT for the state, that too at a place called Basara in Nizamabad district along with similar sentiments being expressed from many quarters, the previous government led by N Chandrababu Naidu took up the issue with the then National Democratic Alliance government after adopting a unanimous resolution seeking an IIT in the state legislative assembly.
The NDA government, however, expressed helplessness in granting an IIT citing that no new IITs would be created. To prove its commitment, the previous government also acquired over 1,000 acres of land at Basara for the purpose.
Soon after the Congress government came to power in 2004, it also started lobbying with the UPA government for an IIT besides introducing a resolution in the state legislative assembly seeking an IIT at Basara, which was also unanimously adopted by the house.
The UPA government clarified it was not possible to create a new IIT but said an alternative plan of upgrading the existing engineering colleges to the IIT level was on the cards.
Under this upgradation programme, the two prestigious university engineering colleges from the states, Osmania Engineering College at Hyderabad and Andhra University Engineering College at Visakhapatnam were selected.The issue of location of the proposed IIT has now assumed a new controversy as the state government has made its intentions to locate the institute close to Hyderabad instead of Basara as was originally committed.