WHEN the Tata Institute of Social Sciences decided to establish an off-campus for the north-eastern region of India, it had one condition: people should not be displaced from the land that was offered to the institution. Guwahati was the preferred location because it is well connected to all the States of the region. The Assam government offered an eight-hectare site on the premises of the Guwahati Engineering College. Two government Ministries, in 2013, allocated a total of Rs.150 crore for the campus. Construction is now in progress.
The TISS Guwahati now functions from a temporary campus. As much as 66 per cent of the seats in the courses are reserved for students from the north-eastern region and the seats are distributed among candidates from all the States in the region. Other TISS campuses offer the mandatory 49.5 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
In an effort to be relevant in the region, the TISS introduced courses in social development that dealt with environmental protection and development, conflict management, peace building and disaster management, and a five-year integrated programme in the social sciences. In addition to inter-disciplinary Master’s programmes, the TISS also started regular Master’s courses in subjects such as anthropology, economics and political science. The second batch of students received their degrees at a convocation at the campus on June 9. “Even before the convocation, all the students have been placed,” said TISS Director S. Parasuraman.
The TISS Guwahati has been researching on topics such as access to justice and child labour. In a vast swathe where tribal customs trump government systems, how do people perceive their access to justice? It has completed another research on child labour in the mines of Meghalaya, and is also working on entrepreneurship development models for the different States.
Parasuraman says that all stakeholders in the region have been supportive of the work that the TISS has been doing, though not contractors. The TISS ran foul of the contractor lobby when it began advocating construction of houses using local materials. “The model we developed and demonstrated cost a third of the money that it takes to build a conventional house. We could demonstrate this in just three or four villages. Then we had to withdraw.”