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Friday, December 15, 2006

i i t

i i t. these three letters carry so much weight in india. entire industries have been built around these three letters. IIT, or the Indian Institute of Technology, is an engineering college setup to produce engineers. there are 5-6 of them currently in India, oases of academia among the chaotic bustle of India. Outside their gates young slumdwelling 9 yr olds wash plates in cold water early in the morning in winter preparatory to serving food to the IIT'ians red-eyed and famished from either studying or doing something else all night. Inside the IIT campus, acres of green land with buildings dotted all around give the lie to the belief that India is an overcrowded place.

Most IIT'ians end up outside india within a few years of graduating with a b.tech degree and go on to build stellar careers. 300,000 17 - 18 yr olds sit in an exam called the IITJEE ( Joint Entrance Exam ) which tests their ability in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and ends up admitting only 4000 of them to its hallowed portals.

As wikipedia.org puts it in its inimitably droll style, "In order of establishment, the seven IITs are located at Kharagpur, Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Kanpur, Delhi, Guwahati, and Roorkee. Some IITs were established with financial assistance and technical expertise from UNESCO, Germany, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Each IIT is an autonomous university, linked to the others through a common IIT Council, which oversees their administration. They have a common admission process for undergraduate admissions, using the Joint Entrance Examination (popularly known as IIT-JEE) to select around 4,000 undergraduate candidates a year. Graduate Admissions are done on the basis of the GATE. About 15,500 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students study in the seven IITs, in addition to research scholars."


I became an ex-IITian after leaving college. Some years after I left college, the alma mater finally got seduced and accepted to join the ranks of the IIT and change its maiden name to IIT Roorkee. The wiki again describes roorkee as -

"IIT Roorkee, originally known as the University of Roorkee, was established in 1847 as the first engineering college of the British Empire.[10] Located in Uttaranchal, the college was renamed The Thomason College of Civil Engineering in 1854 and was granted IIT status in 2001. The institute offers undergraduate degree courses in 10 disciplines of engineering and architecture, and postgraduate degrees in 55 disciplines. It has 375 faculty members. The campus is about 1.45 km² (360 acres) in size and has eight hostels."

Over 25000 IITians have settled in the USA and many more join their ranks every year. The fees for a 6 month semester when I was there was about a 100 dollars. The rest was subsidised by the state, which led to jokes about India subsidising America's technological development, since in those days about 70% of graduates headed straight to the good old melting pot.

Many IIT alumni have become entrepreneurs, including N.R. Narayana Murthy (co-founder and chairman of Infosys), Vinod Khosla (co-founder, Sun Microsystems), and Suhas S. Patil (founder and Chairman Emeritus Cirrus Logic Inc.) Other alumni have achieved leading positions in corporations, such as Rajat Gupta (former Managing Director, McKinsey), Arun Sarin (CEO, Vodafone), Victor Menezes (Senior Vice Chairman, Citigroup), and Kanwal Rekhi (CTO, Novell).

One of the most famous IITians is Asok.

Recently the alumni have started to get together and try and leverage their collective strength. There have been several initiatives which aim at creating networking opportunities, help the institutes modernise and expand and to make a difference to society and community.

These efforts are still in the early stages and not really upto the level one would expect when the cream of india's technical talent comes together and creates something. Today, India and even the world, is crying out for genuine solutions to genuine problems. There is a need for someone to come forward with a reputation for incorruptibility, credibility, acumen and experience to show the way forward in the new millenium. The IIT's pass the test in all parameters. The selection procedure is still considered free from nepotism, corruption and bias. Their credibility is still intact, their acumen and experience acknowledged increasingly around the world.

Current and ex students together make up at least a 100 thousand strong team and they have money aplenty. So we have manpower, money and also we have infrastructure and a lot of bright minds with experience and innocent idealism teeming with ideas and a desire to do something for society. If the IITian organization can seize the day and lead rather than follow, the results could be magical.

We all know the familiar problems, the media is controlled by a few moghuls, the political class is venal, criminal and incompetent at times, society is divided by race, color, status, locatoin, language, caste and creed, the poor do not have access to the tools of learning, capital and community to better their life, the rich are increasingly divorced from reality and forced to lead lives of shallow desperation, while the middle class is caught between a rock and a hard place with costs of education and healthcare rising, social security decreasing and jobs not really a sinecure anymore.

What could the IITians do?

Well they could start a bunch of not for profit organisations which use the manpower of thousands of students, the capital of thousands of successful technocrats and the experience of the old hands married with the academic rigour of the faculty.

What kind of organisations?

well....let a thousand flowers bloom.

maybe a newspaper...there were lots of literary types around last time i looked around.

maybe a television and radio channel...maybe call it "technically speaking"

maybe a product company for the rural market?

maybe a software company for the domestic sector?

maybe a housing company, making small affordable slumhouses for the urban poor?

maybe ...maybe ...maybe...

yeah..i know....dream on.....

still its nice to know that it could happen ....u never know...

2 comments:

meleah rebeccah said...

OMG... YOU guys should RUN my country (America), you'd do a MUCH better job then what we are dealing with now. But I think a chimp could do a better job then my current president. Anyway... When /If you all got together devise a plan wherein you take over congress up in here!!!

Arpit said...

IIT Rocks....

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