Give Back

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Nov 2017 11:09:19


 

 

As the President suggested, even if not for good, the IIT pass outs who have found the grass greener abroad can certainly come here in short jaunts and spend some time sharing the best of their experiences with the students here.


It can be called India’s misfortune that though she produces some of the best brains of the world, she fails to retain them most of the time. Most of the brilliant students who are pioneers and trailblazers in their fields leave the country and flourish in the West. The problem of brain drain is an old issue that still haunts India.

STATING that it was a ‘moral obligation’ for them, President Ram Nath Kovind recently said the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni should give back to the institute and ‘come back and teach’ at IIT — either for a short or long duration. Kovind was the chief guest at the 48th convocation of IIT-Delhi, which saw 1,941 students receiving their degrees.


Speaking at the convocation, Kovind said, “Many of those who studied here in the past were fortunate to have their world-class education heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. There is a moral obligation to pay back and to help those less privileged — in whichever manner the individual prefers. It would be best if this process of paying back enriches education and scholarship at the grassroots of our society.” Four alumni — Lt Governor of Puducherry Kiran Bedi, MD and CEO of Vodafone India Sunil Sood, Prof Soumitra Dutta from Cornell University and Founder of Mission Holdings Saurabh Mittal — were given the Distinguished Alumni Award.


Kovind said the IIT system in general — and IIT-Delhi specifically — was the ‘gold standard of technical education in our country’ and the ‘brand ambassadors of India’s intellectual and technological strength across the globe, from Singapore to Silicon Valley.’


It can be called India’s misfortune that though she produces some of the best brains of the world, she fails to retain them most of the time. Most of the brilliant students who are pioneers and trailblazers in their fields leave the country and flourish in the West. The problem of brain drain is an old issue that still haunts India.


Though the trend has seen some decline in recent years with growing opportunities being available in the country for young talents, we still keep on losing some of our best technocrats and intellectuals to the West. They mostly work there, settle there, flourish there and win accolades there.


Is there some lack of our professional and social ecosystem that does not promote, nurture and sustain talents the way the western countries do? Today the top institutes, universities and laboratories of the world are peopled with umpteen numbers of Indian scientists and research scholars.


Why can’t they stay back in India and contribute directly to the benefit of Indian society? India needs them. We need greater technological intervention and innovation in farming and social engineering to better the standards of our people. The West largely reaps the immediate benefits which our talents go and facilitate them with by working for them.


Yes, there are problems in India no doubt. The West may provide the young talents with a better quality of life than what they would get here in India. They may be better paid and have greater social security.


But here comes the question of moral obligation which they owe to their motherland. It is always easy to succumb to the lures of comfort and luxury, but that also borders somewhere on greed, pride and ambition— characteristics which ride over human values and ethical considerations, making people blind to the gory realities of life and their responsibility towards ameliorating such ills that plague society.


As the President suggested, even if not for good, the IIT pass outs who have found the grass greener abroad can certainly come here in short jaunts and spend some time sharing the best of their experiences with the students here. That will do the students a world of good and make the alumni proud.


This is an easy venture that can and should be religiously adopted as a programme wherein the alumni members would come back to their alma mater for short durations at least once a year according to their convenience and impart the knowledge and skills they have acquired over the years to their younger friends back home. Such exposure is important in nurturing the future growth engine. Many old students do fly down once in a while to be with the youngsters back home, but that is not a trend or a very widespread practice in the alumni.


The visits are few and far between and sporadic. They are mostly busy in their own world and forget their responsibility towards the country that has groomed and made them what they are. It is true that we too need to do our bit to encourage talents to come back home, which is not always the case. The best brains do deserve the best treatment and facilities.


Not that we are always able to provide them so. This is mostly due to the lackadaisical attitude of the administrators and authorities, who don’t care much if the alumni don’t associate with their alma mater. If these authorities make it a point to make the alumni a vibrant part of the system, then only some aggressive movement in the right direction would be seen.


The President’s words may act as an inspiration for the top honchos of these institutes to revitalise the alumni channel to bring in fresh air and light on their campuses. It just needs clarity of vision and earnestness of purpose to set the ball rolling. Alumni groups are always in existence, and only they need to be weaved into the system with greater engagement and interaction through incentives like building for them a fulfilling workplace and conducive atmosphere where they can further their work with ease.


Kovind, sensing this lack we suffer from, therefore, asked the IITs as well to promote the possibilities of alumni members coming back to teach and research here.
Expanding the scope of IITs, the President also said that these institutes must adopt a school each in the neighbourhood and help in the education and uplift of underprivileged kids. Such grassroots level involvement of IIT students will not only engender humanistic values in them but also open their eyes to the social realities around and how they could contribute to making things better.


The IITs are run by the taxpayer’s money, but often they turn into ivory towers, cut off from the social ecosystem in which they survive. If the IITs, with all the best resources they have access to, get more socially involved and introduce in society the innovations and technological advances they make through research, several fundamental changes can be brought about in people’s lives.


By the way, if the students are involved in such activities early on, they will get into the habit of consciously thinking of their underprivileged brethren, who the hallowed corridors of these institutes make them forget. The best must not only get the best but also give their best. That’s the biggest test of their excellence.