The history of the IIT system dates back to 1946 when a committee was set up by Hon'ble Sir Jogendra Singh, Member of the Viceroy's Executive Council, Department of Education, Health and Agriculture to consider the setting up of Higher Technical Institutions for post war industrial development in India. The 22 member committee headed by Sri N.R.Sarkar, in its report, recommended the establishment of four Higher Technical Institutions in the Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern regions, possibly on the lines of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, with a number of secondary institutions affiliated to it. The report also urged the speedy establishment of all the four institutions with the ones in the East and the West to be started immediately. The committee also felt that such institutes would not only produce undergraduates but they should be engaged in research, producing research workers and technical teachers as well. The standard of the graduates should be at par with those from first class institutions abroad. They felt that the proportion of undergraduates and postgraduate students should be 2:1.
With the above recommendations of the Sarkar committee in view, the first Indian Institute of Technology was born in May 1950 in Hijli, Kharagpur, in the eastern part of India.
Initially the IIT started functioning from 5, Esplanade East, Calcutta and very soon shifted to Hijli in Sept. 1950. The present name 'Indian Institute of Technology' was adopted before the formal inauguration of the Institute on August 18, 1951, by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
IIT Kharagpur started its journey in the old Hijli Detention Camp where some of our great freedom fighters toiled and sacrificed their lives for the independence of our country.
The history of IIT Kharagpur is thus intimately linked with the history of the Hijli Detention Camp. This is possibly one of the very few Institutions all over the world which started life in a prison house.
Pandit Nehru in his first convocation address in 1956 said "Here in the place of that Hijli Detention Camp stands the fine monument of India, representing India's urges,India's future in the making. this picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India."