Blessing and curse for new IIMs

Pranab Mukherjee’s clarification that Rajasthan too will receive an IIM as a result of a budget gaffe has prevented the process of launching new IIMs promised by the government from coming to a complete halt.

But the error in Mukherjee’s interim budget speech, even after the clarification, may claim as its victim hopes of launching any of the new IIMs this academic session.

Including Rajasthan with the six other states scheduled to host IIMs will require starting afresh a bureaucratic process already under way to launch a new generation of the B-schools, officials said.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry proposal for six new IIMs will need to be reworked to include an IIM in Rajasthan.

With the poll code likely to kick in soon, the Centre was already in a race against time to obtain cabinet clearance for the new IIMs. “If we have to seek cabinet clearance for Rajasthan along with the other six, we are unlikely to be able to do so before elections are declared,” an official said.

The Prime Minister, sources said, has indicated he is not keen on clearing major initiatives for fear of drawing poll panel ire.

HRD officials have been contemplating another option — obtaining cabinet clearance now for the six IIMs and later seeking sanction for the Rajasthan institute. That would keep open a slim possibility of starting classes in at least some of the six this academic session, starting May 2009.

But this option, officials said, may not be exercised for political reasons similar to those that led Mukherjee to tell the Rajya Sabha yesterday that Rajasthan would receive an IIM. “After having declared Rajasthan too will get an IIM, obtaining cabinet clearance for the other six and not for Rajasthan may not be seen as politically wise,” an official said.

Mukhjerjee’s clarification, though, was necessary to allow the Centre to at least work — or rework — on launching the new IIMs, a project that faced the prospect of being stalled temporarily. “Thanks to the clarification, we can start pushing the IIM project again, so that even if the IIMs can’t be started this year, work will be on and they will start as soon as possible,” an official said.

In the absence of the clarification to Parliament, the government would have been unable to implement its IIM expansion plan under the 11th Plan, which conflicts with Mukherjee’s budget statement. The 11th Plan does not propose an IIM in Rajasthan.

“Parliament is supreme and in the absence of a clarification, the commitment made there would reign supreme,” an official said.

A discrepancy between the Plan and the statement made to Parliament needs to be clarified before the government can proceed on a project. Parliament adjourned today till a new Lok Sabha is formed.



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