IIT Kharagpur -- As it was 50 Years Back
By Gauri Kanta Sen
IIT Kharagpur is the outcome of the recommendations of late Sri Nalini Ranjan Sarkar committee. The committee was constituted by the then British Govt. in 1945 to assess the Post-War requirements of technical education in India and to reorganise it on systematic lines and to make definite and concrete recommendations in this respect.
With this end in view, the committee was formed with 22 members of reputed industrialists, educationists and administrators. Dr. J.C. Ghosh was one of the members of the committee and Dr. S.R. Sengupta acted as its Secretary.
In view of the urgency of the situation the Sarkar-committee submitted an Interim Report in 1946 for the consideration of the Govt. and expressed the hope that the Committee's recommendations be given effect with the least possible delay. The committee recommended that four Higher Technical Institutions should be set up as soon as possible, one each in East, West, North and South to satisfy the technical requirements of the country during the Post-War period. If this was not feasible, to start with, the Govt. should proceed with one Institution only at present in East, preferably near Calcutta. After much deliberation the site for the Institute was chosen by the committee at Hijli old building as this remained vacant with vast area after the cessation of the Second World War (1939-45). This building was popularly known as Hijli Detention camp during the British regime. Here thousands of patriots passed their years of captivity without any trial during the thirties of the last century. The place was hallowed by the sacrifice of two great martyrs Santosh Kumar Mitra and Tarakeswar Sen Gupta, who died of British bullets on the 16th September, 1931. It is a place of pilgrimage for the whole of India. This has now been renamed as 'Hijli Shahid Bhavan' as per request of the Nehru Museum and the Freedom Fighters' Association and finally approved by the IIT Board of Governors and the Central Govt.
When the site was chosen by the committee, Dr. B.C. Roy was the Chief Minister of West Bengal and he on the behalf of his Govt. readily made it available to the central Govt. free of cost. An area of 1400 acres of land at Hijli with the existing collectorate and other buildings including various temporary sheds were offered for use.
Work on the Indian Institute of Technology began in May, 1950, in Calcutta, housed at 6, Esplanade East with a nucleus of staff consisting of Institute's first Director Dr. J.C. Ghosh and a few others who started planning and building up the Institute. Among the nucleus of staff the first man who joined in IIT Calcutta office was late Sri Arun Kumar Ghosh, Ex. Dy. Librarian. He was followed by late Sri Rabindra Kumar Banerjee, Ex. Supdt., Satyendra Nath Ghosh, Ex. UD Clerk, Jhaman Ram, Ex. Duftry and Sri Jyotindra Chandra Bhattacharya, Ex. Supdt. They were all my ex-colleagues in my old office, in Calcutta.
The opening ceremony of the Institute was performed by Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then Education Minister, Govt. of India, at Hijli on the 18th August, 1951. The first year B.Tech. Classes were started from that date with 10 depts., 224 students and 42 faculty members; a few of them were Indians and others from the European and American countries. A few of those foreign professors were deputed by the UNESCO. Those 1st year students were housed in the Patel Hall, just completed for them. The Nehru and Azad Halls were then under construction. Lecture halls, laboratories, drawing halls and engineering workshop practices were held in the collectorate building, hangar and temporary sheds. Thus the IIT Kharagpur marked the first step of the recommendations of the Sarkar Committee. It is gratifying to note that the IIT Kharagpur celebrated its Golden Jubilee on 18th August, 2001 with great pomp and grandeur, on completion of 50 years.
Later on, Pandit Jawaharlal, the Prime Minister of India laid the foundation stone of the new building on 3rd March, 1952. On its completion, he also came to deliver the first Annual Convocation address on 21st April, 1956 to the outgoing students and said, "Here in the infamous Hijli Detention Camp stands today the fine monument of India representing lndia's urges, India's future in the making. This picture seems to be symbolical of the changes that are coming to India".
This Institute and the Nation owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. B.C. Roy who was the first Chairman of the Board of Governors from its very inception till his death. In spite of his exacting duties as the Chief Minister of one of the most problematic states after its partition, he gave himself unstintedly to the service of the Institution. Although, he died in the fullness of years, he was essentially a young man full of energy and vigour, full of ideas for Bengal and India. He spent two hours daily free of cost for the patients who attended at his residence. Because of him IIT Kharagpur stands here today. The Institute was fortunate to have its first Director Dr. J.C. Ghosh who was a man of great vision and administrative competence. When he left the IIT to join as the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University in 1954, in his place the Principal of B.E. College, Dr. S.R. Sengupta joined as the Director of the Institute. So, we were again fortunate to have Dr. Sengupta in our midst. His contribution to the growth of the Institute from its very formative stage to the height of excellence is no way less than his illustrious predecessor. Being the Secretary of the Sarkar Committee, he knew the ins and outs of the recommendations and developed the Institute accordingly for about 13 years from 1954 to 1967.
In fact, Dr. B.C. Roy, Dr. J.C. Ghosh and Dr. S.R. Sengupta were the real architects of the Institute. For their untiring efforts, the Institute rose to the height of glory both in India and abroad. This had set the pace for the development of other Indian Institutes of Technology, established subsequently in Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, Delhi, Guwahati and very recently in Roorkee.
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