Once-envied education system looks to Mamata for 'poriborton'

  • Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: May 19, 2011 23:19 IST

One of Mamata Banerjee's biggest challenges when she takes charge of West Bengal on Friday will involve unshackling the state's once-envied education system from the tentacles of the CPI(M), many academicians and education administrators are arguing.

"Yes, there is need for change… dramatic changes," a Jadavpur University physics professor said.

When asked to speak on the issue, he hemmed and hawed, thought about the request, and then agreed to speak, only on the condition of anonymity.

"Even a laboratory assistant's appointment has to meet the CPI(M)'s approval. But for most of us who have seen academic institutions for years, while the change in government has brought hope, it hasn't yet brought belief that there will be change."

The Left may have lost power in the recent elections, but retains control - through teacher, student and karamchari unions - over most universities, colleges and even government schools, the reason behind the professor's reluctance to speak openly.

Santosh Bhattacharya, former Calcutta University vice- chancellor and one of the few top academicians in the state who publicly took on the Left, chronicled the CPI(M)'s interference over the varsity in his book 'Red Hammer over Calcutta University'.

Bhattacharya, who died in March, was not the CPI(M)'s first choice for the VC's post, and was opposed throughout his tenure (1984-1987) by the government.

The first IIT (Kharagpur) and the IIM (Calcutta) were both set up in Bengal. But today, the state lags behind most states in technical education with just 71 recognised engineering colleges compared to 527 in Andhra Pradesh. While the southern state has 324 B-schools, Bengal has just 33.

The state ranked 32 out of 35 states and union territories in the composite school educational development index for 2008-09 brought out by the National University for Educational Planning and Administration.

While most appeared in favour of change, there are worries that the TMC may end up replicating what many consider the Left's biggest "academic crime" - politics of vendetta against ideological opponents.


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