Turmoil in Arunachal institute, no director for 4 years


GUWAHATI, March 1: Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju has been under fire from students’ organisations for “not doing enough” to bail a premier Central technological institute in Arunachal Pradesh out of academic decadence.
The 34-year-old North East Regional Institute of Technology (NERIST) at Nirjuli, near capital Itanagar, has been without a regular director for more than four years now. The institute is also short of faculty members.
This has left students of six engineering courses in the lurch, while many students pursuing PhD have left the institute for non-disbursement of scholarship in time. Some face a bleak future as they are almost past the age – 36 for local scholars and 32 for non-residents – of applying for jobs.
“We launched an indefinite strike on February 27 after the expiry of a month’s deadline given to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) on January 24 to appoint a regular director. We are disappointed with our MP for not solving the crisis that has put the career of more than 2,000 NERIST students at stake,” Banta Natung, president of Students’ Union of NERIST, told The Hindu on Thursday.
NERIST falls within Arunachal West parliamentary constituency, represented by Mr. Rijiju. The autonomous institute, deemed to be university, is funded and controlled by the MHRD.
The agitating students resented Mr. Rijiju’s inability to meet them despite being in nearby Naharlagun to flag off the Arunachal Express, a special AC train to New Delhi. They also said the Union minister failed to ensure the appointment of a regular director within a month from October 30 last year.
“I had assured the students after the (HRD) ministry informed me that the new director could be appointed by December 2017. But the matter got stuck in a cumbersome process,” he told reporters in Itanagar, apologising to the NERIST fraternity for the delay that “cannot be justified”.
Rijiju had earlier tweeted that he could not be blamed for the ills plaguing NERIST. “I’ve been trying my best since last 2 years to get a regular Director. I’ve again conveyed this grave situation to Secretary @HRDMinistry,” one of his tweets read.
‘Reluctant in-charge’
The powerful All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has thrown its weight behind the NERIST students it their fight for proper academic atmosphere. On Thursday, the students of the state’s Rajiv Gandhi University joined their NERIST counterparts in a protest rally.
The day also saw five research students go on an indefinite hunger strike. The condition of one of them, Kipa Tachuv, who was not in the best of health, is said to be serious.
“We are not blaming anyone, neither Mr Rijiju nor MHRD. But isn’t it his responsibility to see that a premier institute in his home state is not endangered? We are not asking for the moon; all we want is a regular director who make NERIST a great institution that it was projected to be,” AAPSU president Hawa Bagang said.
“Besides meeting Mr. Rijiju, we have made representations to MHRD officials and minister Prakash Javadekar, but in vain. This is probably what this government means by saying it is devoted to the development of Arunachal Pradesh,” Mr. Bagang said.
NERIST, established in 1984, has had only four convocations since the first in 2009. The last one, in 2015, was held after a gap of three years. With the departure of the institute’s director that year, the rot set in.
“Tamo Mibang, the vice-chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University, has been reluctantly handling additional responsibility of NERIST. He comes here sometimes for three hours a day but is in no position to handle the problems we are facing,” Natung said.
Mibang could not be contacted, but university officials said his “hands are full” with issues related to the university. (Courtesy: The Hindu)