Drop the Rajiv Gandhi tag from IIM Shillong – Patricia Mukhim


There is a certain sense of entitlement amongst the leaders of the Congress Party, whose Presidents have incidentally all been from the Nehru-Gandhi from 1978 onwards barring a short stint (1992-1997) when Sitaram Kesri and PV Narasimha Rao held the reins. Several public funded educational institutions are named after members of the Nehru- Gandhi family. How this can happen in a democracy defies logic. Indeed there are too many government welfare programmes, tournaments, stadiums, hospitals, buildings, roads, airports, ports, awards and educational institutions and chairs named after the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The Nehru-Gandhi family which has ruled India for the longest period through the Congress Party since 1947 has, in a society marked by social hierarchy, caste and class acquired the aura and status of India's First Family. Naturally there are countless number of institutions, not least among them educational institutions named after this First Family. That the people of this country have tolerated this dynastic rule shows their mental conditioning. It is taken for granted that the Nehru-Gandhis are indispensable to the survival of the Congress Party and that they have a natural right to claim immortality through those institutions.

A disclosure under an RTI application in 2009 showed that over 450 government projects and schemes bore the name of the Nehru-Gandhi family beginning with Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. There are also a few places named after Sanjay Gandhi. In the national capital we have the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the Jawaharlal Nehru University; a road named Rajiv Chowk (Connaught Place), the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium etc. As many as 98 universities and educational institutions in India carry the Nehru-Gandhi name. In sports, 19 stadiums and 28 tournaments, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Football Cup, bear the name of the Nehru-Gandhi family. A total of 37 institutions and chairs bear the Nehru-Gandhi name. There are 74 roads and buildings named after the Nehru-Gandhi family and 51 awards, 15 scholarships, 39 hospitals and 5 airports and ports.

In India we have 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and 20 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) located across the country. None of the IITs are named after anyone from the Nehru-Gandhi family or any other great Indian. Of the 20 IIMs only one is named after Rajiv Gandhi – the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Management. Shillong. Those who know the history of the creation of the IIM Shillong in 2007, when Arjun Singh was the HRD Minister say that Assam was very keen to have the IIM located in Guwahati. The deal was that if the IIM is to be located in Shillong it should be named after Rajiv Gandhi. The then Education Minister of Meghalaya, Dr Mukul Sangma who is currently the Chief Minister of the State agreed to this deal and it has stuck. So while all the other IIMs have the names of the cities they are located in suffixed to their names, only the IIM Shillong is prefixed with the name of the former prime minister of India.

Recently when Prime Minister Modi visited Shillong on May 27-28, a delegation of citizens that met with him took up the issue of dropping the prefix Rajiv Gandhi from the IIM – Shillong name so that it gets its due recognition with the rest of the 19 IIMs. Some may consider a name change to be a superfluous demand but the RGIIM as the Shillong IIM is often referred to has created several controversies. Many think it is a privately run B-School and therefore rank it lower than the other IIMs. Why should IIM Shillong suffer this discrimination? It is high time that a decision is taken to leave all institutions out of the reach of politicians.

Former President AJP Abdul Kalam who took classes at IIM Shillong and breathed his last there had also mentioned that the Institute needs to be known as IIM-Shillong, nothing more; nothing less. It is therefore absurd that suggestions have come from the BJP in Meghalaya that IIM Shillong should be named after Dr Kalam. If we know Dr Kalam then he would be very offended by such a suggestion. And the BJP need not appropriate all great luminaries as its icons. They have their place but please don't tag their names to educational institutions especially institutions of excellence that have a brand name of their own.

Politicians are elected to govern this country and not to appropriate its resources. They are mere custodians of public goods. A clear line has to be drawn here between the private and the public. In the west, we see several institutions set up by wealthy individuals and families and such institutions are named after members of those families or after the founder himself/herself. This is pure and simple philanthropy. We might have a problem with philanthropy and question the source of the wealth of the philanthropist. But that's another issue. For instance, the Tatas have to their credit several institutions of national and international renown that have benefitted millions of people. They have a right to name all such institutions after their family name since they have used their private wealth. But public institutions cannot be turned into family legacies. Period.

(By Patricia Mukhim)

The views reflected in this piece are that of the author and need not necessarily be that of TNT-The Northeast Today

Featured image(courtesy): commons.wikimedia.org