I still remember the first day when I arrived at the Computer Science department in IIT-Kharagpur for my first class of the session as early as 7.15 in the morning. The department hallway was jammed by hundred or so bicycles, and some classes were already on from 6.30 am.
As I passed the department canteen (popularly known as the CS canteen), I heard some students fighting vociferously over some problem with an elderly bearded man, who, I later got to know, was a professor.
I was already late for class and as I stood at the door, I stopped to take the professor’s permission. He was busy proving some problem on the board, and seemed to overlook me.
Trying to make a good first impression, I asked, “May I come in, Sir?” As he turned at me, I could see he was somewhat disturbed, and with a wave of hand motioned me in, as if saying, “Stop being pleasant and get on with what you have come here for.”
Though he was one of the less “sweeter” of the whole lot of professors I met during the term of the whole course, he actually set in motion the spirit, and also the pride, in IIT on my first day at the institute. And this pride is about superior intelligence, meticulous precision and innovative mindset that makes its students fit for dealing with the best in the technology.
Though I myself have not been able to do full justice to my pedigree, I guess, I have known many friends who are actually working on the highest technological edge — either in research or in industry — and everyone agrees that their IIT pedigree has significantly factored in their success. The point I want to drive home is that the IIT system itself has been producing brilliant graduates and postgraduates who have made their mark in the whole world.
For disciplines such as Compute Science, Electronics and Electrical, where active research is pursued in the advanced world, the students mostly get involved in higher research in top-ranked universities or institutes across the world. Look at the continuous inflow of Indians in Silicon Valley hotspots and labs, and most of them would have an IIT tag.
Mr Murthy, let’s not blame the IIT system for not being able to produce innovative minds.
So, I would disagree with Narayana Murthy on the point that the IITs are not producing innovation and research-oriented students. The IITs are creating value constantly by gearing up student with the basic tools and skills required, and perform along with the best in the world. Sadly, though, our country has for most part been unable to capture this tremendous value that, for many decades, has been mostly benefitting the advanced world.
We do not have enough domestic public or private funding for research in the IITs.
In my IIT days, the labs (at least in the Computer science department) were mostly from foreign MNCs such as Media Labs, National Semiconductor or Intel. Research works of my friends in these labs have later resulted in successful products or patents for these companies.
I had heard my professors crib on umpteen occasions about the poor government support for their work and research. Similarly, the Indian companies typically do not have the resource or, more importantly, the intention to nurture these talented young minds.
So, Mr Murthy, let’s not blame the IIT system for not being able to produce innovative minds. The blame lies with our government and our domestic industry for not being able to tap into this talent.