In Support of an Engineering College at Dhemaji- Dr Uma Kanta Sharma

India is a vast country and the Government of India should take steps cautiously so that not a single State is deprived of getting equal opportunities. But some sort of disparity is seen in case of northeastern States. The people of this region have to raise their voice for fulfilment of some basic demands like higher technical institutions, new universities, engineering colleges etc — but their cries never bear fruits. The question is: Why this disparity? Is it the parliamentarians (from the Northeast) who cannot properly establish the demand or is it the State governments that could not convince the Centre with data base information?
Coming to Assam, during the Assembly Session last time, as soon as a declaration came from the Central Government that a new engineering college would be established in Assam, a tug of war started inside the Assembly among our representatives regarding the site selection for the proposed engineering college. It is most unfortunate and ridiculous. Site selection should not be a political game; here the sentiments of people are associated. A site selection committee has already been constituted. Demands started flowing from different corners of the State for the site. When the people of Dhemaji first raised their voice urging the government to establish the proposed engineering college at Dhemaji, then the people from other few districts also demanded the same for their respective areas.
Do these people, who are opposed to Dhemaji being the site for a new engineering college, want this district to remain as a ‘‘zero industry’’ district or a backward district forever? The Government of India has already identified this district as a backward district out of 200 districts of the country. Is it not the responsibility of the Government of India as well as the Government of Assam to give some sort of a lift to this State in the field of development? True, the Government of India has identified this district with a view to pull it to the rank of other developed districts of the country. So in this context there should not be any debate regarding site selection; all should understand the sentiments of the people of Dhemaji.
After the completion of the ongoing Bogibeel Bridge, NH-52 and Railway broad-gauge link work, Dhemaji will be one of the important districts of Assam. Previously, the Government of Assam gave very little importance to this district due to lack of infrastructure facilities, but now that chapter is also closed. No more now does Dhemaji remain a flood-affected district. So, being a zero-industry and a zero-technical-institute district, the demand of the people of Dhemaji for an engineering college is not unjust; rather it is genuine. These people never thought that the establishment of an engineering college at Dhemaji would solve their unemployment problem, but today they feel that along with the college, the infrastructure potentialities will be maximized, many small-scale industries may develop, and they will get better means of earning their livelihood.
Another important point in support of the institution to be started at Dhemaji is that there are a whole lot of untapped land resources in the district, which may contribute a large amount of revenue to the institution in particular for self-sustenance. The UGC has already instructed to all the higher institutions for the generation of their own resources. In this case, certainly these untapped resources may play a significant role. Sam Pitroda, chairman of National Knowledge Commission (NKC), in his letter to the Prime Minister is on record saying: “Most public universities are sitting on a large reservoir of untapped resources in the form of land. It should be possible to draw up norms and parameters for universities to use their available land as a resource of finance”. The NKC in its recommendation for establishment of new 50 National Universities stated that “each university may be endowed with a substantial allocation of public land, in excess of its spatial requirements. The excess land can be a subsequent source of income generation.”
This apart, at the completion of the mega power project (200 MW) of the NHPC at Gerukamukh, Dhemaji will certainly have a stronger point in support of the establishment of a new engineering college in the district. The people of Dhemaji have not forgotten the political betrayal when the then proposed veterinary college at Dhemaji was shifted to North Lakhimpur.
It is not wise to make issue after issue on this subject. If we go on fighting over ‘‘whether Dhemaji or not’’, our differences will go on increasing; and that will not augur well for the State as a whole. If an engineering college is established in Dhemaji district, it will be not be a property of Dhemajians alone; it will be a property of the State as a whole. We hope the learned site selection committee will analyse all the parameters thoroughly, impartially, non-politically and give a judicious decision in this regard.
(The writer is Head, Department of Botany, Dhemaji College, Dhemaji)
(The Sentinel,17.06.2007)