Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s address while inaugurating the first IIT at Kharagpur in 1951
(Following is the speech delivered by the then Education Minister of the Government of India Maulana Abul Kalam Azad while inaugurating the first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur on 18 August, 1951)
It is for me a great pleasure to associate myself with the formal opening of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur. When I assumed charge of the Ministry of Education in 1947, I felt that of the many tasks of educational reconstruction that faced the country, two were of paramount urgency. The first was the creation of a nation-wide system of Basic Education for all children of school-going age, and the second the provision of facilities of the highest type of education in the technical field. You are aware that the prevailing system of education in the country has been mainly literary and academic. It has not supplied us with the high level scientific and technical personnel that is necessary to develop our economic and material resources, and improve the standard of life of our peoples. For such education we have had to send our students abroad, and from various points of view this has never been and cannot be fully satisfactory.
One of the first decisions I took on assuming charge was that we must so improve the facilities for higher technical education in the country, that we could ourselves meet most of our needs. The large number of our young men who had been going abroad for higher training could have received such training in the country itself. Indeed, I looked and still look forward to the day when the facilities for technical education in India will be of such a level that people from abroad will come to India for higher scientific and technical training.
The Government of India had already before them a scheme for the establishment of four institutions of the standard of the Massachussets Institute of Technology. I felt that whatever the financial and other obstacles, we must go ahead with the implementation of that scheme. The first item in that programme was the establishment of the Eastern Institute near Calcutta, and I am happy that in spite of the tremendous difficulties we have had to face in the last four years, we are able to participate in the opening of the Institute today. I would here like to place on record my deep appreciation of the generous help we have received from the Government of West Bengal who have given to the Institute, free of cost, a magnificent plot of some 1200 acres, and this fine building.
It has been clear to me from the very beginning that this Institute must provide instruction of the highest standard, under the supervision of recognised authorities in their respective fields. We have intended that only men of the highest quality should be in charge of the different departments, and we have not hesitated even to go outside India to recruit professors wherever necessary. We have also felt that there is.no point in providing specialised courses merely because such courses exist elsewhere, but those courses should be provided only if a clear need for their provision is felt. We have therefore decided that facilities in different subjects will be made available at the Institute only when we are satisfied that :
(a) properly qualified and experienced personnel has been secured to run the course, and
(b) that the industrial and technical development of the country need the provision of such a course.
As I have said earlier, these higher technical institutes are intended to fill important gaps in the provision of facilities for higher technical education. Pending the establishment of such institutes, we have sought to fill some of these gaps by improving the facilities available in the existing institutions. On the recommendation of the All India Council for Technical Education, a scheme for the strengthening and improvement of fourteen engineering and technological institutions situated in different parts of the country has been sanctioned and is now in the third year of its operation. This scheme will cost approximately Rs. 1.5 crore The Government have also sanctioned large amounts for the development of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Now that the Indian Institute of Technology has been established, fresh encouragement will be given to the improvement of technical education throughout the country. The Institute will provide post-graduate and research facilities which can be utilised properly only if a sufficient number of graduates in engineering and technology of a sufficiently high quality are forthcoming to take advantage of the facilities offered. This aspect of the question is constantly in our minds and I can assure you that the Government will continue to take a deep interest in the all-round development of facilities of technical education throughout the country.
The Institute which is being inaugurated today will have provision for the teaching of 2,000 students at the under-graduate level, and 1,000 students for post-graduate study and research. These students will be drawn from all over the country, and their close association in a fellowship of study and research in some of the most formative years of their life will, we earnestly hope, develop in them a consciousness of their common Indian nationality and culture. The Institute’s main function is, no doubt, to provide facilities for training high-grade engineers and technologists, but this function, you will appreciate, cannot be adequately performed without the provision of facilities for research as well. We are beginning today with only a little over two hundred under-graduates and a few research students, but I can clearly visualise the day when the great potentialities of this Institute will be fully realised.
In order to ensure that the Institute serves the needs of the country in the most effective manner, the courses in the Institute will be planned on the advice of experts drawn from industry, government departments, other employing agencies and educational authorities. In fact, this close association between academic experts and practical administrators is essential for the proper development of an institution of this type. I would like to make a special appeal to our industrial and business magnates to take an active interest in the development of this Institute. They can help in many ways. Industry can assist financially by establishing Chairs in subjects in which it is especially interested. Such assistance would make it possible to have professors, where necessary, more than one, in subjects which are important from the point of view of the development of industry. I have no doubt that industrialists will also help to make the training in this Institute more practical and concrete by permitting students to visit workshops and factories and allowing them to go through organised courses of practical training in the industry. It will improve the quality of teaching in the Institute, and in the end help the industrialists themselves, if staff members of the Institute are offered facilities for the study of industrial techniques. Promising employees should also be seconded to the Institute to undertake programmes of research or courses at the postgraduate level. Last but not the least, industrial magnates can help by deputing engineers, technologists, and administrators in their concerns to deliver lectures or courses of lectures at the Institute.
Though situated in one comer of India, this Institute is intended to cater for the needs of the country as a whole. We have been able to recruit very distinguished men to take charge as professors in the different departments, and we are happy that a scientist of the caliber of Dr. J. C. Ghosh is its first Director. I have no doubt that they will devote themselves to building this institution on sound foundations so that it may take its place among the finest institutions of its kind not only in India but in the world.
Before I conclude, I must refer to the services of the late Sir Ardshir Dalai, who as the Member for Planning and Development of the then Government of India, mooted the idea of this Institute and Sri Nalini Ranjan Sarkar who was the Chairman of the Committee that drew up the first plan for its establishment.