IIT -The Dream Destination of Young India

Noida, Monday, May 25, 10 PM: I normally go to bed by this time. But it had started raining and as usual the power had gone off. Yamuna asked me to check if I had locked the main gate. As I found a marriage procession going with loud band, I called her. In the meantime the telephone started ringing. We were surprised as no one calls us at this hour. Yamuna picked up the call. I was just listening to her conversation. She was congratulating profusely, and then she called me. It was Ramesh, my cousin brother from Varanasi on the other side. His son Golu has cracked IIT-JEE with a rank of 209. It was certainly good great news. Golu becomes the third in the extended family to enter IIT and the first after Rakesh. Every middle class Indian dreams to see his or her child in IIT for engineering education that is the most sought after profession. As reported, some 384,977 students appeared in the JEE this year , competing for 8,295 seats at 15 IITs, the IT-BHU, and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. The higher the rank, the more are the chances of better stream of engineering. Present trend is for computer sciences and engineering, Every Indian parent, even in rural India knows that. Golu can certainly get it in one of the older IITs. I congratulated Ramesh. He has not been very successful himself. But the achievement of Golu will make him known in the community. I parted with some suggestions to Golu. I am sure he would have been knowing much more than me. My maternal uncle who is my guardian too, must be the happiest person today.

Tuesday May 26. The newspapers have all the news of the success stories of students from different zones, states, and cities- Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Faridabad, Vadodara, Jaipur, Varanasi, Nagpur and Kota, the town that has become the hub of JEE coaching industry. Some of the stories are really one of aspiring and empowering India. But most important of the stories is one of repeat performance of Super-30 of Patna and the legendary Anand Kumar and Abhayanand, IPS who have been selecting and coaching deprived class students for IIT-JEE free. The later now works for Rahmani 30 of minority community.

The stories on IITs always remind me of the year 1957 when I entered IIT. Kharagpur was the only IIT at that time. Bombay IIT came up when I was in the second year. There was hardly any hype in the family as it is today. There was neither coaching industry nor helping material in print or on Internet. Now there are 15 IITs, and may be very soon there may be dozen more, as IIT has become one of the election manifesto promises to the people of a state. However, I get morose when I hear from the students in IIT about the deteriorating infrastructure such as the proper facilities of hostel. I can’t imagine reading a news report saying students using the bed of a hostel bed in shift.

Let me list some of my wishes for IITs and IITians.

Can the IITs be autonomous in real sense of the term and will the bureaucracy be out of dictating their terms and conditions to them?

Will there be a fair competition between the IITs in getting more and more papers published, patents applied and obtained, awards such Nobel and attaining higher position in global ranking of institutes? Will the faculty members keep themselves updated to the latest knowledge in their areas to get similar ears when they speak on any global forum?

Let the entrants realize that they are the best brains of the country. Let them focus to become good engineers and technocrats? Let them become innovators of some world class products? I know of only one Indian who has a product brand to his credit- Bose audio equipment that can compete with global product brand such as Sony or Cannon. Is it not a shame that hardly any product in world market today (such as Nano if it gets success) can be called an Indian discovery? Will more and more IITians stop their craze for getting into IIMs or becoming IAS and remain with the engineering profession?

Let each IIT promote world class incubations for getting the students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Let the faculty be in constant touch with industry of their interest, interact and pass on their ideas.

PS: A wonderful news that heartened me relate to an analysis by the JEE cell. It reveals that while 60% of the students who made it to the seven old IITs in 2007 opted for some form of coaching, in 2008, this figure dropped to 45% this year. I was among those who wished to do away with any number of attempts for the entrance.A committee headed by C N R Rao limited the JEE attempts to two. It used to mock the intention of selection of the best.

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