President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday expressed concern over the low intake of female students at IITs and said it should be addressed as a matter of “national priority”.
Speaking at the 64th convocation of IIT-Kharagpur, the President said, “The IIT system has given every Indian many moments of happiness and pride. Yet, there is one issue that continues to puzzle and concern me. When it comes to IITs, the intake of girl students is distressingly low. In 2017, about 1,60,000 candidates appeared for the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced). Only some 30,000 were girls. In 2017, 10,878 students got admission into the undergraduate class of the IITs. Only 995 were girls. I am told that 11,653 students are enrolled at IIT-Kharagpur at present, but only 1,925 are girls — a little over 16 per cent.”
Kovind appealed to the IIT community to take the lead on the issue. “This cannot go on. We need to do something about these numbers. The participation of women in higher education, science and technology and in the workforce of our country has to rise to fair and acceptable levels within the coming decade,” he said.
IIT-Kharagpur increased its intake of female students from 8 per cent to 15 per cent in this academic year. Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were present at the convocation as guests of honour.
Praising Mamata, Kovind said, “Without meeting this challenge and providing the necessary opportunities for our girl children and young women, the development of Indian society can never be complete. IIT-Kharagpur must act because it is located in a state that has produced illustrious women achievers who have contributed a great deal to nation-building and our society. We are fortunate that one of them, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is with us today. It is always a pleasure to meet her.”
On the occasion, the President laid the foundation stone for the Savitribai Phule Girls’ Hostel and the APJ Abdul Kalam International Visitors’ Guest House at the institute. He also gave away seven gold medals to IIT KGP students.
IIT-Kgp Director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti said, “This is the first time after former West Bengal chief minister Bidhan Chandra Roy’s tenure that the President of India, the Governor of Bengal and the Chief Minister of Bengal have been seen on the same dais.”
This year, 2,616 students were awarded degrees. This includes 295 doctoral and joint PhD, 30 MS, 624 MTech, 39 MCP, 112 MBA, 27 EMBA, 10 MMST, 18 MHRM, 8 LLM, 29 LLB, 52 PGDBA, 529 dual, 475 BTech, 36 BArch, 178 five-year integrated MSc and 154 two-year MSc degrees.