3 Idiots: IIT, IIM and the Minister

A distorted image of a scene from the Hindi film 3 Idiots

Since when have IITs and IIMs become shrines that everyone has to bow before them and whatever comes out of those hallowed corridors is to be considered some holy benediction?

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and the hurt alumni and faculty of the institutes are both narrow-minded. Here is what the minister had said:

“There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs and IIMs are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty.”

What exactly is world-class? Don’t we have our own standards to judge? There is some pretty wimpy stuff coming out of Ivy League universities. The IITs and IIMs depend on government funding, so Mr. Ramesh has just given them an opportunity to crib about how they are short of money and shackled by government interference.

It is no wonder that reports mention the kneejerk response that this one statement has received. Typically, they have pulled up the minister, asking him to hold forth on the quality of politicians. Pretty lame. For not only is the minister a product of such an institute, there are many others, and quite a few of them in fact confirm what he says – not about the faculty, but about the students. The hierarchy is in place and those who get in assume they are better than the rest.

And what is so great about those students? Many take the first opportunity to go overseas and then after they have made it return with a cheque to donate to their alma mater. Those who remain here end up doing staid academic jobs; the more enterprising ones consider research to mean rehashing the minutiae of what they did at the institutes in columns, books and films and these are lapped up because our ‘youth segment’ is now interested in the techie/managerial route to success decoded in simplistic paneer wrap language.

Oh, before I forget, a little bit of mandatory failure along the way is seen as idealism. Idiots.

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I had written a more detailed piece on a related subject in Understanding the Rot in Academia


  1. Jairam is an IIT aluminus, maybe he knows better. We must have one or the other controversy by the gentleman, sometimes about SUV's, sometimes Lavasa etc. About the IIT's and IIM's, yes they are the Brahmins of today's India, right or wrong these twice born's opinion is better than us mere graduates.

  2. I assume you are talking for yourself. Everyone has an opinion and how it is perceived is relative, so what is better about it?

    And if it comes to expressing, here is an open challenge - get an IIT/IIM person and let us fight it out, without references and on a topic selected at random on the spot on a news story and let us see what these intellectual Brahmins can come up with without 'notes'.

    Do you know any or would you like to feel sorry about being a "mere graduate"? Trust me, you would do just as well or even better depending on what you snort :)

  3. Important question to ask in this debate is that 60 yrs after Nehru created these modern temples (he actually used that word) for modern Brahmins, what are the tangible benefits to the Indian Nation.

    I remember during the foreign exchange reserve crisis of the early 90s, India had barely couple of months worth foreign exchange left to pay for the imports (to keep the lights on) and guess who came to rescue? Migrant workers in the middle east countries repatriating extremely valuable foreign exchange back home. Still no Orange Cards for you!!

    These hyper-educated brigade can't even hold criminals like Warren Anderson accountable within our own borders but they can lawyer (Yes, honorary Minister P. Chidambaram) happily for fraudulent organizations like Enron.

    I am actually thankful that there are so few of them. India can't afford too many of these idiots.

  4. Farzana,
    Being an IT person myself and intermittently "interactedly associated" with IITs , my own anecdotal experience pretty much co-relates with what the Environment Minister has been saying. Despite being the "best of institutions" IITs have abysmally low contribution in research activities. Much fewer contributions in journals, papers, innovations (Industry consultations included). Personal anecdotes from my side involve some of the professors being candid enough to accept that they were much much behind the industry in terms of "exposure" and had a lot to learn from us "industry folks". Certainly not a situation with MITs, Stanfords and Harvards.
    But then, do we bother ?

  5. Students, not faculty, make institutions. Faculty simply follows students, otherwise Halwai can create an institute of halwai technology. Research is a wrong measure to guage, how well students who graduated, are doing is a more accurate measure.

  6. Have had two IIT bosses, they are intelligent, good at numbers, think they are extra smart, but have poor people skills. Does not surely apply to all. It is not me, but the world that "sir pe chardha kle rakha hai".

    I disagree that students make an institution. Yes, why not McDonalds has a Burger University, Halwai University is possibility, thanks for the idea!

  7. Hitesh:

    Isn't it interesting that Nehru's socialist dreams needed such 'temples'? This resulted in complete wastage of human resources at the low and medium end of the spectrum. And now there are all these tieups and education is another elitist pastime.


    If those professors feel that industry can help them, then it makes more sense than sitting in some mothballed world.


    There is research being done outside of these institutions too. The question is: does such research have tangible goals?

  8. Farzana:

    We research all the time, even for a good restaurant to good wine. No institute or professor is needed, as long as student is good (fine, very good), that is all it counts. I know this dispels "Guru Theory".

  9. If you research for good wine which may be too good, then your hangover will be your guru.


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