Sunday, October 01, 2006


Open letter to the Orissa govt., IOP and DAE on the slow progress on NISER

Open letter to the Orissa government, Institute of Physics (IOP) and
the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) on the slow progress of NISER


Dear Chief minister, IOP directors and DAE Chairman:,,

Subject: Slow progress on the NISER Front

It has been more than a month since the National Institute of
Science Education and Research (NISER) was announced by the prime
minister Dr. Manmohan Singh (on August 28th 2006) [1] during his
visit to Orissa. During his speech, the prime minister had said
"NISER will be at par with the IISER being established in other
places but will operate under the umbrella of DAE." Last week on
September 27th when inaugurating the third IISER in Punjab, the
prime minister mentioned [2] that "For the past century, India has
had only one national institute of excellence in Bangalore. In the
past one year, our Government has approved the creation of three new
institutes of the same standard. I have had the pleasure of laying
the foundation stone of a similar centre in Kolkata. The Department
of Atomic Energy is setting up a similar facility at Bhubaneswar."

Thus as far as the prime minister is concerned the 3 new IISERs in
Pune, Kolkata and Chandigarh and the NISER in Bhubaneswar are going
to be equivalent and will be like the Indian Institute of Science in

However, how these institutions exactly turn out will depend a lot
on the implementation. In particular, there is a severe shortage of
high quality scientists in India and all over the world. Thus the
new institutes (among the 3 IISERs and NISER in Bhubaneswar) that
are more aggressive in recruiting these hard to find top-notch
scientists will immediately rise to the top and the ones which are
tardy and get bogged down in prolonged bureaucratic deliberations
will stay in the bottom.

In this regard let us mention what some of the IISERs have done so
far. The IISER in Pune and Kolkata were announced by the Prime
minister [3] on September 28th 2005. The union cabinet gave its
approval [4] of these two institutes on October 27th 2005. Both of
these IISERs started classes on August 16th 2006. IISER Pune
started classes [5] with 70 students at Pune's National Chemical
Laboratory (NCL) campus. In July 2006 IISER Pune project director
and NCL chief S. Sivaram said [5]: "The institute is at an embryonic
stage and NCL will provide support in the form of administration,
finance, engineering services as well as infrastructure." At that
time eminent scientist and the first director of IISER, Pune, K N
Ganesh said [5]: "The academic building of IISER, with more than
30,000 sq ft of built-up area will be ready in the next 15 months. A
100-room hostel, with twin accommodation will also be built on the

IISER Pune now has a web site [6] at
They hired [7] 3 physics and 3 chemistry and biology full-time
faculty had appointed seven adjunct faculty before their classes
started in Aug 2006. They have now advertised [8] for additional
faculty positions in their web site. In other words IISER Pune is
well ahead of the pack.

Before IISER Punjab was formally announced [2] on Sept 27th 2006,
the deputy chief minister of Punjab, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who is
also in charge Minister of higher education had already visited [9]
IISc Bangalore and had met the faculty and management of that
institute to figure out infrastructure requirements for the IISER in

Coming back to the NISER Bhubaneswar the Orissa government has given
mixed signals. At some forums, it is playing down NISER as just an
extension of the existing Institute of Physics while in other forums
it has touted [10] the establishment of NISER. The Institute of
Physics (IOP), which is funded by the DAE, now finds itself in
charge of the establishment of NISER but seems to be moving at a
very slow pace. IOP was prodded by the DAE to start classes as soon
as possible, even this year. However they are worried about the
infrastructure, especially lack of hostel facilities for incoming
students at the B.Sc level, who will be much younger than the
current IOP students. They are thus thinking of starting classes in
2008. Although, the infrastructure issues raised by IOP are valid,
one must note the difference between the enthusiasm at Pune and
contrast it with that of IOP Bhubaneswar; while it took one year for
classes to start at IISER Pune and Kolkata, if IOP insists on its
slow pace, it will take two years for NISER to start classes. If
IISER Punjab starts classes next year then by virtue of starting
after the other three in people's mind NISER will start at the
bottom of the list.

In their tardy progress what both the Orissa government and the
Institute of Physics (IOP) are overlooking is that this institute is
very important for Orissa and the DAE; also after the originally
proposed National Institute of Sciences (NIS) was overlooked, this
institution's announcement happened only because of the grassroots
efforts [11] of Orissans all across Orissa as well as all over the
world. Orissans from New York to Tokyo to Sydney to Baripada and
Rourkela protested against the NIS move, wrote letters to the prime
minister, had many peaceful dharanas, convinced the MPs and MLAs to
protest in the Orissa assembly and the Indian parliament, and wrote
articles and op-eds in local and national papers. The issue was even
covered by the International Herald Tribune and several other
international newspapers. Hence this institute has a very different
origin than most central institutes that are created by central
announcements with possible push by the respective state
governments. In case of NISER the people were and are deeply and
emotionally involved. So the state government, the DAE and IOP must
realize that they are being closely watched and monitored regarding
the efforts they are putting in towards making this institute match
the vision of the people - aptly articulated by the prime minister
[1] as a "Mecca of science" like today's TIFR and IISc. With this
open letter they are being put on notice. All their activities
regarding NISER is being watched by the people, discussed and posted
at forums such as [12,13] and if
NISER does not achieve its vision in a timely manner, there will be
a living history that will depict who the culprits and slackers were
and Orissa will not forget them.

However, thinking positively we suggest that the following actions
be immediately taken:

(i) Since it took about a month from the announcement of the IISERs
in Pune and Kolkata (on September 28th 2005) to its approval on
October 27th 2005, and its already been a month since NISER was
announced, IOP and DAE should get their act together and do all that
is necessary so that the NISER package is at the cabinet at the
earliest. DAE is supposed to be a much more efficient organization
than the HRD ministry; how come their effort on NISER is behind the
schedule set by the IISERs?

(ii) If one thinks that a child is worthless and treats him/her that
way then the chances of that child becoming a productive citizen is
much lower. On the other hand if one treats the child as a treasure
with unlimited potential from the very beginning then there is very
high chance the child will grow up to be a productive citizen. Thus,
the Orissa government should stop downplaying NISER and saying that
NISER is just an extension of IOP. It should take the prime
minister's speech to heart, treat NISER as a treasure, work and push
towards making NISER better than the three IISERs, and help IOP to
create NISER as well as getting back to its (IOPs) original mission
and letting the grounded NISER become an independent (of IOP)

(iii) The Orissa government should help, through political efforts
(such as the CM meeting the PM if that becomes necessary) in getting
the NISER approved by the Indian cabinet as soon as possible, as it
is already behind the time table precedent set by IISER Pune and
Kolkata on this issue.

(iv) The Orissa government as well as IOP should immediately send a
delegation to IISc Bangalore, TIFR Mumbai and IIESR Pune to get an
idea on the infrastructure needs for the NISER Bhubaneswar.

(v) The Orissa government should help in providing temporary
infrastructure so that IOP can immediately start hiring faculty, the
hardest-to-get and the most important resource needed to make NISER
a top-notch institution. In particular, the Orissa government should
offer space at one of its building (such as the Fortune tower) and
offer some of its modular temporary buildings that it loans to IT
companies, in case IOP will need them. The Orissa government should
co-ordinate with the nearby institutions such as RRL (Regional
Research Laboratory), RMRC (Regional Medical Research Center), ILS
(Institute of Life Sciences), IMA (Institute of Math and
Applications) and Utkal University so that faculty that are hired by
IOP for NISER can have temporary laboratory space as well as housing
quarters immediately.

(vi) DAE and IOP should immediately do whatever is necessary so that
they can start hiring faculty for NISER immediately. They should
take advantage of having TIFR as a sister organization in forming
hiring committees and in recruiting from TIFR post-doctoral
researchers and alumni. They should think themselves as being in a
race and do all that is necessary so that NISER is better than the
IISERs in all respects; they should show how DAE is better at making
a top-notch institution as compared to the HRD ministry.

(vii) With the help of Orissa government, and other institutions in
Bhubaneswar (ILS, RMRC, RRL etc.), IOP and DAE should try their best
to start classes in 2007. In the worst case if they are not able to
do that, they should hire enough faculty beforehand, and have their
research publicized that NISER does not become the last (behind the
three IISERs) in the people's mind.

(viii) Orissa government, IOP and DAE should issue a monthly
progress report on NISER so that the people all over the world who
are watching for this institute to become a top institution know the
progress, know that proper efforts are being put in a timely manner,
and know any issues where they can be of help.

All these need to be done as soon as possible so as to make NISER a
reality rather than a mirage like the AIIMS-Bhubaneswar, whose
foundation stone was laid by the then PM in July 15 2003, and all
that is there now are boundary walls. Plus, with the three IISERs
progressing ahead, slow progress on NISER will show Orissa, IOP, and
the DAE in a negative light.


hundreds of concerned Orissans all over the world














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