Monday, August 24, 2009


The letter of IITkgp Teacher's Association President published in IITkgp student mouthpiece titled - Letter from President, IIITTA:"Save IIT System" and associated comments can be found at

200 IIT-B profs take leave, march for higher pay hike

Express News Service

Posted: Aug 25, 2009 at 0141 hrs IST
IIT-M faculty members protest over new pay scales (over 150 faculty members abstaining)

The statistics says that not everybody was in favour of boycotting the class. Even at IITkgp, while every faculty member is aggreived, the mode of protest, the 'boycotting of class' was not acceptable to a section of faculty members inspite of persuations from the other sections (some felt as intimidation, too). They prefer other modes of protests which are not disruptive. There was enough attempt though to make a hero out of people who boycotted the class and villain out of the ones who did not through passages like (which came out in open):
"Casual Leave on the 21st August should see no classes and no laboratories at IIT Kharagpur.
Please do not ask the question: what have the others done? You do it first. Note down the names of those who did not cooperate. When the obituary of IIT system would be written, at least you can get the solace from the fact that you did whatever was asked of you."
Read the line "Note down the names" of those who did not boycott class. There is a veiled threat.
"It should be enough for us if we could prove to ourselves that we, the IIT faculty, are not dead dogs who do not react however hard we are kicked on the back."
The sarcasm : "
Some faculty members have called me up to inform that some have "Freshers' Intro" at 5 PM. Some have "extra class". Some have "project defence". So, they cannot come. After all, we are famous IIT faculty, known for our commitment and dedication."
Unless we wake up from slumber and shake off our pseudo-elitism, probably, the time has come for all of us to write an obituary to the hallowed IIT system."
There are many such instances.

Personally speaking, I am horrified by the commanding tone in these open messages. As if, we now have two bosses at work place. One, the administrative one, Director via HOD. The other is the Teacher's Association. If they are in conflict, whom to obey? What does my service rule say? Can I not participate in a mode of protest that is not in conflict with my service rule?

I have participated in black badge protest held before. Boycotting classes is above my threshold. I took class as usual though there was lot of pressure not to do that. I respect their view as much as they respect mine or the other section who did not boycott and that number is significant in IITkgp as well as other IITs as the news report says.

Finally, I am much more disturbed by the conflict over the mode of protest than the cause of it, the division in rank and file because of it. I don't feel that not-so-high pay rise will affect the IIT System that much. But if others feel so, I value their opinion. When I took the job of an IIT faculty, salary was never an issue. It is not even today. As long as I get a good, peaceful work environment here, I care the least for the salary. What I get is sufficient for my family and the philanthropic activities I am engaged in. Also, IIT offers me other approved means of earnings by offering professional services which though irregular is substantial to me.

The following to a great extent echoes my sentiment.
From, a report by
Manu Sharma, Thursday August 27, 2009, New Delhi

"Dr Sandeep Sen studied at IIT Kharagpur, went to Duke University in the US for his doctorate, but despite many lucrative offers, chose to come back to his alma-mater to teach two decades ago.

Now, as the faculty demands a pay hike, Sen says for him it was never about the money. What has upset him is people questioning the credibility of the faculty.

"They say there is no great research at IIT. I agree we could have done better, but at least acknowledge the good work. It is not about a few thousand rupees, it is about the recognition that comes, a kind of medal given for good work," says Dr Sen, who is heads electronic engineering at IIT Delhi.

Dr Sourav Bansal, Sen's student and with a Phd from Stanford, could have his pick of jobs abroad. But like his mentor, he too came back to contribute to excellence in teaching.

Dr Bansal, who is an assistant professor of electronics at IIT says: "when I came for the interview I was told money would be very less, but I remembered the environment and wanted to come back. Be a leader in our technical revolution. And when we see that professors have to ask for this, it's not fair."

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It is wonderful to go through views of people who have attained some amount of success in life...and business leaders are no exceptions.

Long back I read what the leader of HCL Technologies had to say. It was a turn around story. The success mantra was (i) Focus (ii) Lead and (iii) Dominate. I wrote these three words in my office room blackboard to be constantly remided of. Yes, that was the time I found myself cornered, facing resistances from unexpected quarters and resolved to reinvent myself.

Today I read the interview of Anand Mahindra in Economic Times. The four success mantra for his company, in his own words are :

"There are four mantras. Essentially, they have to do with businesses that are global or have global potential; businesses that have innovation as a measurable plank; certainly we also want to be leaders, preferably one or two in all the businesses in which we compete. Finally, the fourth mantra is financial — they have to do with free cash flow and return on capital employed. "

I also liked the other part of the interview where he talked about meritocracy in his organization. And he has no plan to put his siblings on top. This is a story on how a person joined M&M. One should also not miss the wisdom of the father in the story and how he advises his son.

"There’s a wonderful story that I always share in all the management gatherings. It’s about Bharat Doshi, our CFO. Many years ago, as a gold medalist accountant Bharat had to chose a job. He got two offers. One was from a Gujarati-owned company and another from M&M. He went to his father and asked him. His father said, ‘Get me the annual reports’. When he got the annual reports, his father looked at them and said ‘Choose M&M’.
And when Bharat Doshi asked why, he said, ‘Look, the Gujarati company has Patel & Patel, Shah & Shah. And M&M had an Ali Mohammed, a Pitambar, a D’Souza. There were a whole variety of people from across the country and he apparently told Bharat, ‘If you choose this company and you get to the top it will be because of your merit and not because of where you come from in this country.’ That’s an incredible legacy. And I think I’d have failed if I didn’t maintain that legacy. I’d like to think that it’s still maintained."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Swine Flu

Last THU I had to travel to Mumbai for a project meeting. Family members were not happy. Pune is the hot spot of Swine Flu. My mother's first air travel to a relative's place in Pune is cancelled. Mumbai is not too far. And it is also in news. However, this was an important meeting and few other from IITkgp were also travelling.

At IIT Bombay, we did not see any panic. Neither the people on the street or airport appeared perturbed. The life seemed to be all normal.

This morning I read an interesting article on this written by none other than Swaminathan S A Aiyar (Times of India), one of my favourites, mostly for his contrarian view of life. He says, I quote -
"Swine flu has killed 21Indians so far, and may soon claim hundreds, even thousands. That is a tragedy. Even so, swine flu remains a very minor cause of death, far behind other diseases that kill millions. The panic generated by the media is unwarranted, and is worsening health outcomes. "
He is armed with statistics.
"(In India) we find that 1.37 million people die annually of respiratory diseases and infections, 7,20,000 of diarrhea, and 5,40,000 of tuberculosis. These are staggering numbers. They imply that on an average day, 3,753 people die of respiratory diseases and infections, 1,973 of diarrhea, and 1,479 of tuberculosis."
Did we know that or cared to know? This was from a 2001-2003 report by Registrar General. Why media does not take note of it? Swami has a major point when he says -
"Seen in this light, 20-odd swine flu deaths are almost laughably trivial. I do not laugh, because every death is a tragedy. But i am infinitely sadder for the millions whose plight has been swept out of public view, and is actually being worsened by upper-class panic.
Make no mistake, swine flu panic is substantially an upper class worry. Why do the media overflow with news of swine flu while ignoring other diseases that kill thousands every day? Because those everyday diseases are the problems of the poorer half of India, and the media target the upper half. Some upper class folk do get asthma or TB, but they are quickly treated and rarely die of these diseases. The millions who die come from the bottom half, lacking access to doctors and medicines. They die so regularly in millions that their deaths are no longer considered news. "
Swami may appear harsh but let us not miss the sympathy in his tone for those people who do not get it and need it more than others.
"Then along comes swine flu. It is a new disease, and that itself commands media attention. The richer half is terrified that not even its money and access to doctors provides safety. As a disease carried by air travellers, swine flu is a quintessential elite concern. Elite panic soon spreads to lower rungs of society, as the media project a new apocalypse. This is true across the world. Globally, swine flu has infected 1,77,000 people and killed 1,126. The numbers are trivial compared with deaths from malaria, respiratory disease or diarrhea. Yet, the global media focus on swine flu. "

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Convocation : Part 2

Yesterday IITKGP and IITD had their convocation. Excerpts from convocation speeches are presented here. Hope, people take note of these. A much less important but satisfying personal experience is related to this year's convocation.
My name as a student of IITKGP was called before during convocation. In this convocation, I was sweetly surprised when Director in his address mentioned my name. He read out a list of faculty members who got national level awards in last one year. I was watching the convocation with family from home on local cable TV network. The auditorum is too small to accommodate all. The family felt very proud. Later, during the convocation lunch, one senior professor from our Dept. expressed happiness and told that this made the Dept. proud. I think, it is sweeter than the award itself - that it is being enjoyed by all!

Sibal raises bar for tech trophies

New Delhi, Aug. 8: The IITs must transform themselves into creators of knowledge rather than focus on undergraduate teaching, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said today, issuing a thinly veiled challenge to the apex engineering schools.

Addressing the IIT Delhi convocation today, the minister also questioned the absence of “passion” to generate new knowledge among IIT students once they clear the entrance examination to the institutes.

“Students come here after clearing one of the toughest examinations but then seem to lose their passion for creating new knowledge,” Sibal said, addressing graduating students, their parents and faculty at IIT Delhi.

The minister called the IITs one of the country’s top technical education institutions but pointed out that the institutes faced fresh challenges as “expectations from you have grown”.

“Very often, I am asked by people: ‘Oh, what’s so great about the IITs? Have they produced any Nobel laureates?’” the minister said.

In defence of the IITs, Sibal said they were producing more research than many other Indian higher educational institutions.

“But the best research universities in the world have been able to break out of a chain of undergraduate teaching and become creators of knowledge, in turn attracting the best brains to join them,” the minister said. “And we need that from the IITs if we are to catch up with the West in terms of research,” he added.

IIT's surprise convocation package India's moon man

It wasn't on the invitation card (no reporter claimed to know this), but Isro chief G Madhavan Nair dropped in to collect the institute's highest honour, Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa).

"I'm honoured," Nair said, while the applause at the mere mention of Chandrayaan said it all. The Isro chief invited IIT grads and Gen-Y with open arms: "If you aren't afraid of hard work and have vision, Isro is the place for you."

Presiding over the occasion where 1862 students received their degrees Tata Steel MD B Muthuraman, who's also the chairman of IIT-Kgp's board of governors, stressed on the long-term benefits of living within one's means. "You must be a part of a new, evolving India," he advised the fresh IIT alumni.

For executive director of Tata Sons, R Gopalakrishnan, it was a homecoming of sorts. "I'm a father, a son and a brother here depending on whom I'm talking to. I was here 45 years ago. It's tough to be an IITian, tougher to an IIT alumnus, and toughest to be the chief guest," he said to loud cheers.

IIT director Damodar Acharya opened up with a range of expansion plans and long-term goals. "We are aiming for 11,000 students by 2011. If the government permits, we intend to eventually take in 20,000 students. This year, we had 228 PhD students, which is a record of sorts. As of now, we have about 15% PhD students. We aim to make it at least double," the director said.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The following came in today's edition of DNA. The context was IIT Bombay convocation and Delhi Metro Rail mishap. I wish students/people take convocation speeches more seriously than appropriate sound bytes that are appropriate to the occassion. I had a chat session yesterday afternoon with few outgoing students (Bibh..., Anim...., Pawa...) who gathered here for convocation (being held today at IITkgp). They are on their way to do PhD in US universities and asked for suggestions, issues related to research. Then like all previous batches of students, I urged them to come back to India and participate in the nation building process. The discussion invariably led to value based education, peer pressure in making decision, leading life in others terms etc. They wished to be made aware of these when they entered IIT. I am happy that Vivekananda Study Circle ( is organizing a meet on 10th Aug. at S. N. Bose Auditorium as the new session begins. Students like Tapo..., Sum.. are taking lead there. Wish them all the success.

Now the DNA article :

'IITians should look beyond short-term gains'

Mumbai: "Should we not educate and warn engineers and scientists coming out of IIT Bombay that professional ethics and values should not be compromised for short-term business advantage?"
This was the question put forth by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation managing director E Shreedharan at the institute's 47th Convocation. He suggested that IIT Bombay should incorporate ethics and national values as part of the students' training.

"I am making this suggestion based on my long professional experience, particularly in the context of the tragic accident that took place in Delhi Metro on July 12th when a cantilever pier under load collapsed causing death of seven workers and injuring 16," said Shreedharan. He said that a high-level committee concluded that the collapse was due to serious design deficiency.

"The structure was designed by a well-known structural consultancy company and was being constructed by one of the best known civil contractors of India. The design of a cantilever pier is not a complex exercise. It was lack of professional ethics that led to the deficient design," he said.

Shreedharan told the students that achievements could not be sustainable unless they are built on ethics and values. He further urged students to give back to the country.
"The country invests Rs20 lakh yearly on each student graduating out of this institute. It's your duty to pay back to the nation at least 10 times what you've got from IIT Bombay," he said.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Holy August

This is the August, the holy month for every Indian.
We became free as a country.
The journey since 1947 was full of toddler's steps.
We had many falls.
More important is the fact that we stood up and marched ahead.
A lot of work remains.
The best way to pay tribute to the martyrs of freedom struggle,
the sacrifice made by millions
is to live up to their expectations, to fullfill their dream.

Some inspiring videos from post 1947 Indians (triggered by Pinki's orkut update)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No flame, please

I found the BBC News article titled 'India's Faltering Education System' dated 18th Aug., 2006 quite interesting. The more interesting is the debate in the comment section. It can be found in

The observations of few are given below. It is time to introspect.

I am an Italian American executive recruiter, working for technology companies in the west part of the United States. As a part of my job, I have met quite a good number of Indian software professionals from IITs. Most of them are quite successful, established and holding c-level positions in big/blue-chip companies. However, none of these people has ever made any contribution to his/her IIT institute endowment. Surprisingly, some of these people actually made contributions to their graduate schools, such as Caltech, Stanford or CMU. On the other hand, I have seen Chinese people making significant contributions to their institutes in the mainland. I have seen same trends here in the US too. For most of Ivys, these endowments are the major source of funds to attract right talents. Sometimes I wonder - do these people really hate their Indian institutes or ashamed of being Indian? Again, I am not an Indian and this is just my personal opinion. So, no flame please.
Bob Copliano, US

If Government institutions cannot attract good researchers, then private research institutions should start doing this. Why are there are not good private universities in India? Lets not forget that schools like Cornell, MIT, Stanford are private schools.
Sathyan Subbiah, USA/India

There is a curious straitjacket in the Indian education system- that good students study engineering and medicine and mediocre students study commerce. Therefore, the cream of the students is forced to study mechanical subjects with little emphasis on original research. Few have the patience to study classical sciences, since all are after quick money. The poorest of the students are forced to study humanities and social sciences, and it is fruitless to expect them to come up with cutting-edge research. No wonder most of the top Indian academics, including Kaushik Basu, are based overseas.
Aruni Mukherjee, India

I am a final year student at IIT Kharagpur . The reasons about the declining number of students who are pursuing research after under graduation can be attributed to the following factors: 1) A job in India for IITians could easily fetch a starting salary of 400,000 rupees plus . However , If one opts to work as a research assistant , or go for PhD , then the stipend one gets is very less . It's like 10,000 rupees per month , whereas if a student goes to US to pursue higher education(read MS/PhD) , he gets $1800 in hand (after taxes) per month . 2) Dearth of quality professors in India . I think the reason for this is the low salary for the professors . At 25,000 rupees ($600) per month , one cant lead a life anywhere near to the kind of lifestyle a highly qualified and brilliant person would like to have . These people would better go abroad and join the US universities , where they get a much better deal. 3) Lack of proper infrastructure: Despite the fact that IITs have produced some great minds , the fact remains that it has to do with the tough entrance procedure . The faculty and infrastructure inside is quite modest by any international standards . There's shortage of water , lavatories stink , mess food is a mess altogether and surroundings are not much hygienic . Why would one like to stay if in every regard the option of doing MS from USA seems a more viable and better option?
Pushkar Prasad, India

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Evolution and Involution

I find the following report in today's Times of India very interesting. I wish it gets more prominent space and prompts us to consider - Do we know everything about global warming? Often, we write prescriptions following models which are developed on sparse data. Hope, this development is taken note of and included in the model.

It is said that evolution and involution are parallel process. While many evolutionary model exists (Big Bang to what not), the same may not be true for the other. I also wonder whether it is a zero sum game.

Now the TOI, 03/08/2009 report :

Sahara desert goes green, thanks to warming

Washington: Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall, all thanks to the rising temperatures due to climate change.
According to National Geographic News, these rains could revitalize drought-ravaged regions, reclaiming them for farming communities.
This trend is supported by climate models, which predict a return to conditions that turned the Sahara into a lush savanna 12,000 years ago. The green shoots of recovery are showing up on satellite images of regions including the Sahel , a semi-desert zone bordering Sahara that stretches 2,400 miles.
The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan. The transition may be occurring because hotter air has more capacity to hold moisture, which creates more rain, said Martin Claussen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, in Hamburg , Germany. The waterholding capacity of the air is the main driving force, Claussen said.
While satellite images cant distinguish temporary plants like grasses that come and go with the rains, ground surveys suggest recent vegetation change is firmly rooted. Throughout North Africa, new trees, such as acacias, are flourishing , according to Stefan Kropelin , a climate scientist at the University of Colognes Africa Research Unit in Germany. ANI