However, sources in the Planning Commission say they have not received any formal communication from the HRD Ministry to allocate finances for the an all-girl IIT. 'The project could be at the concept level. We have not received any communication from the HRD ministry so far on this subject,' said a Planning Commission member on condition of anonymity.
HRD minister Arjun Singh recently indicated his consent for a girls-only IIT named after Indira Gandhi, with support from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the project. The move is in sync with President Pratibha Patil's suggestion to the government on March 11 to set up an IIT exclusively for girls. She had also suggested that the all-girls IIT be built in Amravati, Maharashtra, her former Lok Sabha constituency.
President Patil's proposal suggested that the all-girls IIT offer only 'integrated' courses so that students immediately after school can join the institute and pass out with post-graduate degrees after five years. Currently, the existing seven IITs have some five-year integrated courses on offer, but Patil wanted to make them mandatory across all streams.
An IIT-Kharagpur management official, who requested anonymity, opined: 'An all-girl IIT is fine. But with so many new IITs in the pipeline, getting quality faculty will be an issue.
We usually follow a 1:10 ratio between teacher and student, which will get diluted if there are so many IITs and fewer quality faculty.' With the government's plan to set up new IITs, besides converting the institute of technology at Banaras Hindu University into an IIT, the total number of IITs will increase to 16.
A similar sentiment was echoed by an official of IIT-Delhi, who informed that there has not been much of a growth in the last two years in the number of girls pursuing engineering. However, compared to the last 10 years the growth is significant.
Currently there is no all-girls IIT in India and none of the seven existing IITs or the eight new ones in the pipeline is named after any personality. At the existing seven IITs, girls make up for almost 10% of the overall student strength. The new IITs, too, which will admit 120 students each, will have around 15 girls, indicating that education at IITs is still a male-dominated pursuit.
'As there have always been a limited number of girls pursuing engineering, setting up an all-girl IIT may encourage more girls to pursue engineering as a career. But the quality parameters should be strictly adhered to during the selection procedure, otherwise IIT brand could be diluted,' pointed out a professor at IIT-Kanpur.
Among existing engineering colleges exclusively for girls, there is only one Cummins College of Engineering for Women in Pune. The college accommodates over 650 students and offers Bachelor of Engineering in four engineering degree courses. The all-girl IIT is likely to be launched during the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) itself, subject to clearance from the Planning Commission.