The article "LOVE FOR ALMA MATER OR RIDING PIGGYBACK TO GLORY" generated a a wide range of reactions. The reactions are presented here without comments.
My only comments or clarifications are about some misconceptions that seem to have been conveyed.
I stop here. There are a large number of messages and you will need some patience and perseverance to go through all of them. Yet, it is worth the effort. I profusely thank everyone who sent his / her comments. They have made the debate lively and interesting with their contributions.
I have added a short introduction at the end of some comments (whenever I know the person). In some cases I have removed parts of messages that were unrelated to the article.
With Best Wishes and Regards,
5 July 2003
P.S. Mr. Kanwal Rekhi's comments were received on 9 July. His comments put the matter in a different perspective. Hence, I have put his comments right in the beginning.
I found the article very interesting to say the least. I love it when people are free to speak their minds without fear. That is what I love about India!
The idea of an IT school at IIT Bombay did not initiate with me. IIT Bombay had requested government of India for funding for such an institute. It was informed that it will take three years to get in the GOI budget cycle and may be another two to three years to get funding after that. I proposed that IIT Bombay seek private funding and I will be very happy to help lead this campaign. After I made the commitment to support the project, I had only two conditions attached to the donation:
Incidentally, I did not impose any conditions with regards to naming the institute after me. When I was informed that the building was to be named after me I was not very happy as only half the money was from me. I strongly protested and proposed that it be named after some of the past professors or directors. I was informed that powers that made decision did not want to change their decision as it had already been sent to and approved by higher ups in Delhi.
Anil, you and I may never agree on any thing but I believe that GOI has done enough for IIT's, it is time that alumni who have benefited immensely from essentially a free education and the industry pick up the tap going forward. Current IIT's should be self sustaining while GOI focuses on building more IIT's.
President and CEO
Well written indeed. Probably not very popular views, but correct. So keep it up.
IITM 1969 AE
I like the views expressed in this article. I also appreciate the choice of the subject.
Thanks and good wishes
(Dr. Ajay Narang)
I fully agree with your views. These NRIs are now not willing to fund IITs if the money goes through a common fund (and they do not get fame and name!!!) (recent articles in TOI)
Dear Mr. Chawla,
Absolutely right. You have candidly hit the nail on the head. Congrats.
Keep up the crusade against carpet-baggers.
With best wishes and regards,
bravo! It was an excellent article sir.
We (a group of my friends, presently students of IIT Kanpur) strongly believe that it is absolutely uncalled for to make hostels with 'hotel' facilities. huge money is being spent on beautification of the hostels and campus on the whole. this is all being done in competition to IIT Bombay .(no malice intended against the present IITK administration, this is the general feeling among the students here.)the same amount can be spent on some meaningful research. people like kanwal rekhi and others who have donated money with preconditions like opening of a school in their name and spending money by their wish only shows that by glaring some bucks they want to rule over Govt. of India, The Director and other faculty members of the institute who may find research in that area totally uncalled for. this goes like this, say:
One alumni member Mr. X donates Rs. 10 Crores to build a new department say IT or biotech. Now IIT issues some vacancies say 20 for this new department.
new candidates join us, Lakhs are spent on each of them each year, Lakhs are spent to maintain the building and money in tune of Crores of rupees come in from "The Government of India" for research work there, faculty appointments of say 10 in the beginning. The school grows old with time needs more money and more money which Govt. of India has to spend but it would be called "X institute of technology or biotech " whatever. Despite Govt of India ending up with an expenditure of over say 100 Crores over the few years!
Your fear that students have started looking upto these millionaires as their role models is already true! and the effort and hard put in by the alumni in other fields which are not glamorous have been downplayed. who knows about an alumni working for rural India.
The Govt. wants the fund to divert towards nation building projects and not the ones that bring glamour to IIT alumni and are for the benefit of US universities or as a matter of fact for people sitting in the silicon valley.
Diversion of funds towards wrong directions is very harmful for the campus culture.
2nd year, B.Tech
My thoughts :
Though I have stayed in India after graduation, happily worked in private sector, started a company enjoyed doing government projects ...I am a new kid on the block for past 3 years in the USA
With all this I would still support the likes of Kanwal Rekhi giving money to India...If we want money with no conditions, that being idealistic....Why even my Great Grandmother used to tell my grandfather in calicut that he would get an extra Ghee Dosa if he took out 10 more buckets of water from the well that evening....
Finally, "Lakshmi" coming into the house we should always smile and welcome...what if there are strings attached?
IIT-M - 1987 Mech - 209 Jamuna Hostel
"This has caused the focus of the institute to shift from its basic objectives."
This is not a new story - the IITs deteriorated from early nineties, with a set of unimaginative directors being appointed by the political clan to suit their needs, the academic contributions and excellence have been set aside while selecting these fellows that has brought the decline - I guess this is not much different from other walks of life in the country and you can't expect a set of five institutes to remain on top. Its easy to blame Toms and Dicks, but after all who are they to do any damage - its us who allow a damage to take place.
Having been in IIT life for exactly 40 years, the glory of IIT Kharagpur and the way it was run by the first two directors with just one registrar and an office of about 30 fellows all together in the administration and the encouragement given to young faculty to dedicate themselves to research and development and good teaching - I think this is all past.
In Delhi, IBM, booted out by the great George, entered through a backdoor into the IIT campus - without an application even to the quota and control raj - they all blinked away when IBM sneaked in by giving a rental money of few Crores - an immature chairman and unimaginative and incompetent director fell like nine pins at the feet of unknown guys, whom they probably would not have given a job as a lecturer; there are enough people to praise the new occupants of the campus for their virtues of research and development and the great benefits this big nation and poor land lords will receive in the form of rentals, travel fares, and what else unwritten stuff ... Those who pointed out the ills of such a folly were heckled, punished and what not.
Somehow, I have seen a recent report of Incubation Center at IIT Delhi, and has given me another ray of hope in this corrupt place - US and other western countries began the model of incubation centers in 70's - the results of which are Research Triangle park, silicon valley, Route 15 in Boston ... We have given these reports after visiting them and made cases for starting such centers in IITs - as usual they fell on deaf ears and were attracted by rental moneys and kickbacks; I believe IITD has gone over this bad patch and it is so nice to see a young CEO, 23 years old nurturing a company and made 50 Lakhs within 2 years of graduation and is ready to go on his own into the wide world - thats the support we have to give to the younger brains - to be honest, after 30-35 years age, generally speaking people are dead - no new ideas come up - it is the fresh mind - nurture it or incubate it - let it go out to challenge others; thats where the future is;
Incidentally, before the guys you mentioned invading IIT Bombay - it is a crime in this country to name people - Modis (hope this is an old story and I would be excused for naming them here) have invaded Kharagpur and while similar invasion is about to take shape in IITD, people have already seen the game of IBM and sent them out saying we don't want to have a free lunch. These guys, I understand refused to dole out if their name was not printed in golden letters on the top of the building.
By the by, I don't know who came up with the financial inputs of 5% - I was surprised to see the entire budget of Bhakra Nangal in 50's was just 55 Crores - hope we don't say that these guys have made donations to the tune of several Bhakra Nangals, the sweat of several Indian people over few years.
Probably we on the whole are going through a transition period of Nehruvian idealistic philosophy (which will never work in this greedy world) to global village and private enterprise and that these corruptions and unimaginative policies are singularities that will die off before we reach a stable equilibrium.
Well your article did provoke me - I have seen the progress of all IITs, been a part of it, a decline of them, and now seeing a ray of hope in some places for recouping - hope we will have real good research, development, teaching and entrepreneurship coming out of these modern temples of technology in India which we Indians built them with our sweat.
Prof. JS Rao retired from Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Delhi and is currently engaged in technology development work with a private company.
Couldn't disagree with you more.
Your logic is same as has been for thousands of years of religions who have made virtue out of poverty and not dignity.
Poverty is glorious and a rich does have chances of going to haven as much as an elephant has going though a hole of a needle. This logic whether of Christianity or any other religion has made life miserable for a majority of human beings.
Everyone has right to glory in his chosen field be it money making, sports, politics, social service etc.
And money does make world go round!!!
Schopenhauer was one philosopher despite all his philosophy, never had to spend one day in poverty. Because he understood well the economics of survival and invested his monies very judiciously.
Sorry for too many acerbic comments, but sprit behind the Bharat Shiksha Kosh is disgusting.
Dr. Rajesh Dixit is Assistant Professor at Technical Teachers' Training Institute, Bhopal
Dear Anil Chawla,
Thanks for a fine piece. Incidentally, Anil Sadgopal also had little respect for India or her people when he started on his mission; and he does not seem to have changed his opinion. I do not think that the attitudes of NRI dogooders have changed; only the fashion has.
Dr. J. K. Bajaj
Dr. J.K. Bajaj did his Ph.D. from Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT, Bombay and currently works with Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai.
I appreciate your views, institutions must be made more relevant, not just more sophisticated.
Alaka Sarma is a social activist working for the upliftment of North East India.
Dear Anil Chawla,
You said it! Congratulations for being bold as well! I (1966) and my brother (1969) are from IITM and often keep discussing the issue of 'donations' to IITs. 'Donations' are given to the 'poor' and the 'helpless'. Are IITs 'poor' / 'helpless'? IITs should not accept donations with 'strings'.
Let the money come. It is welcome. But if it comes with 'strings' we take it as a 'business proposition' and if it comes without 'strings' we take it as genuine 'helping hand'.
Dasigi B V
Dear Mr. Chawla,
I agree to certain extent your argument regarding funding of IITs by alumni with string attached. However, I do feel that IITs' environment needs to be upgraded near to MIT or Stanford standard so that we keep our students to pursue higher studies there and not in US institutions.
I believe most of the IITians feel that apart from Undergraduate studies, IITs are not that great institutions to pursue research or higher studies as compared to some of the foreign institutions.
True to every word and syllable of it.
You have helped us comprehend the behaviour of these NRI's. Even a person who studied in public schools and have started earning in USD exhibits the same behaviour. Also people who accept these and glorify such kinds have always lacked comprehension or have benefited personally in some other way.
Kudos to your article which has given words to a feeling hitherto within me but not have been able to communicate to my NRI friends.
I am trying to answer my self whether it is wrong with having Rich(money) Alumni donating the IIT's.
I think, it is the question of sense of gratitude and we all can display it. The people who have money can give money; those who have other excess assets, can give the same.
If we follow and practice with the spirit of giving, we would have a better place to live, whether India or abroad.
However the act of 'giving' (philanthropy) should not hurt of other human values. In my personal experience, philanthropy can hurt others, when the donors spirit is 'ego centric'. It is completely different feeling/results, when we give with the expectation of some sort of self 'gain' vs. when we donate with a total objective of benefit of the receiver.
If we try both ways, the difference will be obvious. And the best way to change other, is to change ourselves.
IITM , M Tech 1989
very good article.
keep it up
Leena is an IAS officer and an author. She is active in the field of women's upliftment.
Being a student of IIT presently I don't know whether it will be all right to speak for and against the IIT alumnis in this group, but this discussion draws my attention naturally.
Well I would like to disagree with Mr. Anil Chawla for his comments on this issue, that seemed to be biased against the IIT alumni's living in USA. The analogy drawn by him seemed out of context. Comparing the IIT infra with the mother's car and sarees was like telling a story to a 5 year old kid. Can't we have some more mature thoughts?
Sure Mr. Kanwal Rekhi's (or any other alumni's) donations has an impact on IITB. But this impact is more on the infrastructure rather than the student starting to worship him. I being a present student of IITK have seen the changes that has been brought due to the donations. Why should we not have excellent Lab facilities, hostels and other infrastructures ? Just because our alumni's feel a little proud about donating? (I wonder if they really do so as suggested by Mr. Chawla). And if they are doing so, what's the harm in saying thanks to them by calling them for some lectures or giving awards.
To quote Mr. Chawla...
Hoping to get recognition, ego pampering attention in USA is too difficult (and a bit too expensive). So, the guy with millions in his pocket turns to India, hoping to get the attention and recognition that eludes him in his adopted homeland in spite of all his riches
Sir, are you assuming that nobody knows about the IIT alumni's before they give donations to their alma mater ? And even after their giving donations, how many people outside the IIT network in India get to know about their donations?
Finally I would like to agree Mr. Sanjay that these donations should be welcomed whether it is directly or through a govt. channel.
Amit upadhyay. (B.Tech, IITK)
We seem to live in a world where you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.
I have lived in Sydney for the last 27 years and my love for India has not changed one bit.
One can do something for the mother land if you wish irrespective of where you decide to live. It is definitely wrong to accuse or blame every Indian in America or outside India, who wishes to do something for the country, as some one full of ego or full of himself or having vested interest.
Take two simple examples, INTERIIT and IIT GLOBAL. Dave lives in USA and is an extremely busy fellow working for Lockheed Martin. I am down under where we are forgotten except for Cricket. Now what is there to gain here in promoting a forum to get all IITians to together. I am glad fellows like Ravi Challu, Ravi Prasad and Raj Varadarajan have all taken this cue and started other yahoo groups like the IIT-Global Jobsearch.
It is indeed a shame to see that so many IITians who stayed behind by choice see all Indians in America and elsewhere as self centred , manipulative and evil souls. Mr. Chawla sure has a problem.
Having said all this I am still anti Bush but not anti american.
>> Hoping to get recognition, ego pampering attention in USA is too difficult (and a bit too expensive). So, the guy with millions in his pocket turns to India, hoping to get the attention and recognition that eludes him in his adopted homeland in spite of all his riches
Now what is said here by Chawla is definitely appalling. I think if he is a gentleman member of this group, he should retract this statement.
Is there a difference in a $10 million to IIT Bombay given by say for example Deshpande of Sycamore as compared to $10 million given by Narayanamurthy???
Remember evil and stingy fellows never give money away .
Strong article, Mr. Chawla. Espouses an alternative point of view. However, I would like you to consider a few other points as well. As a preamble, I would like to state that I am an all IIT product, working in India, and not rich enough to contribute millions to any cause. Nevertheless, I consider myself to be a successful professional.
Further comments on your statements:
> America, the land of opportunity that enabled them to make money, has too many millionaires. Being a millionaire in USA is no big deal. Hoping to get recognition, ego pampering attention in USA is too difficult (and a bit too expensive). So, the guy with millions in his pocket turns to India, hoping to get the attention and recognition that eludes him in his adopted homeland in spite of all his riches.
These statements are not necessarily true. Becoming just a millionaire in 30 years may be possible, but becoming a multimillionaire capable and willing to donate a few millions to his alma mater is not common. That should be appreciated.
Kanwal Rekhi is a typical example of such an American of Indian origin. ..... and Nobel Prize committee would not even accept his nomination. So, in desperation he turned to his motherland and alma mater.
I don't know too many details about Mr. Rekhi, but I don't think this and the subsequent paragraphs are in the right spirit. Even going only from your description, I couldn't find anything wrong or deplorable in what you have stated that Mr. Rekhi has done.
Dr. Anil Sadgopal was dumped and Kanwal Rekhi was put on the pedestal, without even realizing its impact on the minds of impressionable students.... The shift from Sadgopal to Kanwal Rekhi has a clear message - India is a horrible place to be in....
I don't think Dr. Sadgopal would have received such adverse comments from anyone. That could be treated as his success. Heroes change with time, the perceptions of the people change with time. This is a natural phenomenon. That doesn't justify your conclusion.
Donors are not willing to support any unglamorous projects that may be useful for the country. Appropriate technology, rural development, environment, ecological studies, basic research, pure sciences, humanities and social sciences do not receive a single dollar, while information technology, hostels, gymkhana and such fringe activities are flush with funds. This has caused the focus of the institute to shift from its basic objectives.
Why can't we take it the other way? The scarce funds of the Govt. of India are used for more purposeful work, and items that cannot get sufficient allocation of funds are funded by others. I understand the Government contribution to IIT's has reduced, and IIT's have to look for more funds elsewhere. There are a number of other institutes which need Govt. funds.
Tell me, how many projects of National interest that you have mentioned have the IITs worked on in the past (With only Government money that was available), and what are the net gains to the country? How many organisations support IIT research? Do they give funds without dictating the topic of research? Then why blame someone else for the same?
I think we can afford to take a liberal view of the matter.
Regarding "netas and babus", IIT's were autonomous bodies and did not have much interference from "netas and babus". That is why they were different. Now the babus or netas want all donations to be routed through the ministry- a separate setup. If I wanted to donate, I wouldn't give it to the babus and netas. I would give it to my choice of recipient. If Government doesn't permit it, the donations would reduce or stop, and you wouldn't have any complaints!
IITM and IITK(11 years!)
I was excited to read your comments and a nice story. If I may suggest, the implications to mother's day to day life, value system etc., need further elaboration.
We need a dream, leading to goals and an action plan based on realities. I myself oscillates between an idealist and practical implementer. After my graduation from IIT, Madras in 1970, I did PHD in US and worked couple of years. I returned back and worked many years in Defence Metallurgical Lab, Hyderabad and then as Head, Biomedical Technology in Sree Chira Medical Institute, Trivandrum. I also had a couple of years stint with a small scale industry owned by my friend in Nagpur. I have been fighting and improved things in a limited way. Social changes are very difficult and slow to come by.
I wrote it as I felt compelled to congratulate you for your clarity and commitment. We all have to go through the process of information, knowledge and wisdom guided by a firm philosophy.
Hope to meet you sometime.
I liked this article, though I have my own comments.
These days everything is becoming business oriented including charities with self interests including marketing their own products, fame , ego boosting etc. The main positive advantage for the people is inspiration from these people success.
The techno man who did some thing for India without expecting much back is Mr. SAM PITRODA. what do you say about this?
Dear Mr. Chawla,
Your write up about the NRIs desire to seek recognition reminds me of a story of Somerset Maughan. A rich couple came to a French fishing village to adopt a child and one poor family obliged for a consideration and hoped that the child will be well looked after. After four decades, the adopted son returned in a limousine to meet his natural parents. There was a furor in the village and a lady said to her son –
‘You know, they first came to me, but I refused to part with you, my darling boy’
The son hissed through his teeth – ‘You fool, you fool.’
My comments are –
S C Sharma
Phew, that was a lot of venom directed against poor Mr. Kanwal Rekhi and his ilk! Actually, I am quite bewildered by all that raving and ranting. Chawla seems to hate those who migrate to US and make money, and hates such people defining the discourse at his alma mater. As for me, I think it is good to make money and that brain drain is a stupid concept.
I admire Mr. Kanwal Rekhi (except for getting a school named after himself). The whole IT – BPO revolution in India has been spearheaded by few such people, who went and made it big in the US. They inspired whole lot of other Indians. In India, they subcontracted work, invested money and trained people. These early pioneers would be pushing paper in government jobs, had they remained in India. With all due respect to Dr Anil Sadgopal, Mr. Rekhi and others have inspired lakhs of people and, in doing so, have contributed more towards development of India.
I know a guy who was raised in a village, but now works in a BPO firm making Rs 25,000 per month. Had this opportunity been denied to him after his BA degree, he would have probably returned to subsistence farming. Go ask this person - does he prefer to be where he is now or would he have liked some selfless IITian teach him how to save water at his small farm.
Chawla objects to western orientation of IITs in particular and India in general. But I see that the skeleton on which modern India is being built, is entirely western. Our cars, buses, trains, phones, televisions, radios, refrigerators, air-conditioners and computers are all products of western technology. In our towns and cities, electricity and water supply systems, transport and communication networks, sewage treatment etc use western techniques. Even our constitution, police, military, judiciary, bureaucracy etc are all modeled after the British. Which of these would Chawla like to discard?
IITs are one of the institutions where people are trained to man the ramparts of our society. It is true that many migrate to the US. But, I believe even they contribute to India’s development, directly or indirectly. In fact, I would say that there should be separate schools for appropriate technology and rural development, rather than expect IITians to undertake these tasks.
Go ahead, I say to the NRI. Make millions. But do not forget your roots. If you can, start a business or a school in India, lobby your local politicians on India’s behalf, or just do your research – it will probably plough back into India at some later date. Or donate to your alma mater if you please (;-)
Nandu joined IIT Bombay in 1975. He did his B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering. He went to USA and returned with M.S. degree. Currently, he is a freelance consultant chemical engineer based at Pune.
I was forwarded your article titled LOVE FOR ALMA MATER OR .... by Ashok Deosthali or Raju Supanekar. I have some comments to make on that and I will do that later on.
In brief, I agree to some of the points in your article but disagree with many of them. I am not all that sure about Kanwal Rekhi, but I have got great respect for Nandan Nilekani.
The total money contributed over the last decade by Kanwal Rekhi, Nandan Nilekani and the likes is less than 5 per cent of what Government of India has spent on IIT Bombay during the past four decades.
Thanks and regards
Deepak S. Avasare
B.Tech. (Mett), 1981
The genuine donor will see that even his name does not figure anywhere, forget about naming courses or hostels after him. In my opinion the mother should refuse the donation and make it clear that any money donated should be without any strings
Alan Sanjay Rocha is Assistant Professor of Technical Teachers Training Institute, Bhopal and is based at Extension Centre, Goa.
For the original article "LOVE FOR ALMA MATER OR RIDING PIGGYBACK TO GLORY", Please click here.
Please write to me your comments about the above debate.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.
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