Report by India Education bureau; Mumbai: It is a privilege and an exceptional honour for me to participate in this historic convocation function.
This event is significant as it marks the outturn of the fiftieth batch of IIT, Bombay graduates, whose brand is known worldwide for its excellence. IITs are undoubtedly the crème de la crème of professional technical education in India. They command an unprecedented reputation for excellence in technical education and whose alumni occupy the highest positions internationally in R&D, business, industry and even government. I must say that IIT, Bombay, even amongst the other older IITs has been a front runner and it has been fortunate to have had, over the years, devoted, creative and brilliant faculty and managers, I salute the founding faculty and builders of IIT, Bombay and their successors for their contribution to creating a world class institution that has served the nation well.
The Nation is proud of IIT, Bombay. We congratulate the graduates on their accomplishments and thank them for the many contributions they have made to the campus, the community, and the larger world in their time here.
But I am sure you will agree that the brand equity of IITs is due to the excellence of its undergraduate students arising out of the selection of the best brains of India through one of the most rigorous test systems in the world, where a mere 2% of India's elite higher secondary pass-outs competing get into the IITs. This reminds me of the vision and abiding faith and trust that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had reposed while creating these 'temples of modern India' – he had envisioned the IITs to be centres of creativity and intellectual enterprise committed to the needs of social and economic development of the nation. Have the IITs realized this purpose?
Let me respond to it from how others view the IITs. About a year ago I was requested to write a preface for a Report brought out by the World Bank titled 'The Road to Academic Excellence : The Making of World-Class Research Universities' edited by Philip Altbach and Jamil Salmi, Professor N Jayaram of Tata Institute of Social Sciences contributed the Chapter on Toward World-Class Status?
The IIT System and IIT Bombay. Professor Jayaram notes that the shortage of qualified faculty members in IITs is daunting and the age profile of the faculty is worrisome as the number of faculty members below the age of 35 years is a low fraction of the total faculty strength and most senior professors were approaching the superannuation age. Also faculty productivity as reflected by number of research publications, PhDs generated and external consultancy and sponsored research were rather low. Collectively we recognize these weaknesses and are endeavouring to rectify this. We would accord IITs all the support to radically ramp up their R&D and innovation activities within the 12th Five Year Plan itself.
I believe that for the IITs to realize the vision of Pandit Nehru, IITs would need to put in place four complementary sets of factors : (1) high concentration of talent: high quality faculty members, floating scholars, students and vibrant internationally adequate resources so as to be in a position to conduct advanced and appropriate research; 3) put in place flexible and conducive governance system that encourages decentralized scientific and innovation management; and 4) acquire and delegate the flexibility to manage resources, including financial, without being encumbered by bureaucracy.
On the academic and research front the IITs enjoy unbridled autonomy. It is only with respect to financial matters that the IITs are circumscribed by government rules, which limits to some extent their autonomous nature. We are cognizant of this handicap and are seeking to remedy it by according to the Board of Governors full powers in regard to faculty, financial and other matters. Needless to say this autonomy will go hand in hand with accountability.
I believe that for India to succeed it is necessary that you, the graduates, succeed as individuals too. You are also fortunate to have had an unparalleled opportunity of studying in one of the best institutions in the world. What role would you like to play in the process of making India a great nation? You need to find your own path that is most satisfying and rewarding for you as well as that helps to build an inclusive India.
Dear graduates, we are a country with large diversity in terms of religions, languages, castes, cultures, ages and incomes; yet we have a vibrant political system and democracy where transfer of power through ballot is smooth. We have government machinery which is considered by many as bureaucratic, unresponsive, a drag and yet that is capable of doing miraculous things such as, conducting general election in India which is one of the biggest management exercises in the world!
Young people like you are breaking down barriers of caste, creed, religion, sex and region, at a rapid rate the world over to usher in change, but there are a lot more changes to be made and a lot more barriers to be broken. My expectation from you is thus of a very high order not only as professionals, but also as intelligent and wise voices in the community you will now serve.
Friends, let me assure you that it is a great time to be an Indian. Even more, it is a great time to be in India. Enjoy being part of the action in a country with a proud past and destined for a great future. It is also the time when the nation needs the very best of truly educated minds: their skills and specialized knowledge, their patience, understanding tolerance and above all, compassion. Don't let the 'fire in the belly' subside, 'Passion' makes the difference between an average and an outstanding performer.
Remember that your degrees will help you to make a living, but it is your education that will help you to find a life. And, both will help you to make a difference in the lives of others. When the right man is there in the right place, at the right time everything works – even if nothing else is there. Will you be that RIGHT person?
To conclude my vision for the IITs in general, and IIT, Bombay in particular, is that they be amongst the finest of teaching cum research institutions in the world and in time to come, say by the time of the diamond jubilee it commands a global brand equity equal if not better than even MIT or Caltech.
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