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Stop using the IITs for your political gains

Dear Politicians,

As I write the first line, I wonder why have I ever included the Dear. Let me assure you that I believe that there is little that you have done that would evoke a feeling of fondness within me. I am writing this letter wondering about how myopic must one be to become a politician. At the same time, this letter results from an explosion of anger and despair over the way in which you have determined to utterly destroy certain good things for your own gain.

The newspapers over the past few days have been exceptionally full about what the minister for HRD plans for engineering colleges including IITs. Of course, newspapers have always been full of news about IITs. Take for example the issues of LGBTQ groups at IITB, and the corresponding issues faced by the straight people at IITB. Or about how 600 odd students fell in for an April Fools' prank carried out by someone on the campus. Which again makes me wonder: why the obsession with the IITs? How do things that happen within a research institute gather so much importance to be published in national media? Oh, I'm sorry, no one cares a damn about what happens an BARC or at TIFR. Then why the IITs?

Recently, the government has been constantly devaluing the IIT brand. Does it hope to make the brand more accessible. I don't think so. Maybe the government wants to completely destroy the brand. Yes, that must be the case. How else can you justify arbitrarily renaming colleges as IITs or arbitrarily increasing the student intake?

Why is it that the aam-aadmi, the one you claim to be champions of, is so concerned with the IITs? Is it because of the perception that once their ward enters these gates, his life changes forever? I'm sure that is true, but you never bother to mention that a persons life may as well as change for the worse as it may change for the good. Why is it that attendance in classes often falls below 10%, with angry professors boycotting classes because they feel insulted when they come to an empty classroom? Why is it that most of the high valued placements that take place on campus are in sectors completely unrelated to what students have been studying for over 4 years? Why is it that the undergraduates, often considered to be of a much higher calibre than the postgraduates, never stay beyond graduation, and get completely disenchanted with research?

The answer to most of these questions relate to the system that you have created. A system with false hopes and promises, that trap most of the brilliant minds in the country into jobs they never wanted, into professions that were not chosen by them. And what you are doing right now, Mr. Politician, is to simply further that system, make it even more draconian, so that it completely kills of the youth, so that only 41 year olds can be called youth icons, and no one younger ever survives.

I am extremely interested in research, so I decided to try for the IITs, considering that these were supposed to be the premier research institutions in the country. What I found was a system filled with coaching classes bribing top rankers to endorse their institutes, a cut-throat competition involving crores of rupees, with parents forcing unwilling children, like cattle, into a career they never wanted, forcing them to give up their childhood learning calculus and what-nots a full four years before any of their peers would even hear of those terms. Maybe it's worth promoting this obsession with the IITs. After all, parents want good returns when they invest in children, you say, so why not make them believe that they have a tiny iota of hope that the return on their wards shall be any better.

I am surprised at the impunity with which you have been attacking the IITs. First, you decide to upgrade certain colleges to the IIT tag. Why? What's in a name? I'm sure that the quality of the college has not changed even after it was labelled as an IIT. Isn't this the part where you play on the false hopes of people regarding the IITs? Then you decide to do away with the IIT-JEE, the exam now synonymous with the undergraduate admission procedure in the IITs. Why? Do you want to make it appear that it's now easier to get into the IITs? Let me tell you this, Dear Politician, every institution should reserve the right to admission. It should be able to set it's own criteria for the quality of the people it admits into its system. Forcing a criteria for admission on an independent institution is unethical, to say the least. Then, you want to increase the fees at the IITs fourfold, but you want students to pay up only if they do not go into research. Dear Politicians, do you not see alarm bells that students from the premier research institutions in the country are not interested in research? Does this not indicate a certain flaw in the system, that students take admissions into fields they have absolutely no intention of following later in life? Of course you do, you're not blind. But you choose to use this for your own advantage, rather than to address the issue.

I have a suggestion. Why don't you name all colleges in the country as IITs, and make engineering as compulsory for all students as class 12th. After all, that is the popular perception, isn't it? Complete engineering from the IITs, then go into whatever field you wish. It's surprising, the way engineering and medicine are seen as the only worthwhile college majors to be pursued. Anyway, let's come together and spoil a system already going down the gutter.


Someone who was interested in seeking admission in the IITs, now disillusioned with the system.

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