The IIT has been India’s best brand globally across all sectors. MNCs have been eager to lap up its graduates even before they step out of its hallowed precincts, and with enviable payscales. As education appears to be the least of the BJP’s priorities, I won’t be surprised if the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) heads downhill. Here are some recent developments that attest to it.
- A student group was today derecognised by IIT Madras for their views against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The reason: this group was critical of Mr Modi and his government!
- It is interesting to note that IIT students are increasingly drawn to politics now than ever before though they would be better off keeping their focus on education without being distracted by political affiliations.
- They are perhaps drawing inspiration from the likes of Mr Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister, and Mr Manohar Parrikar, Union Defence Minister, both former students of the IIT.
Free Speech?: The IIT is a technology-centred educational institution, not one whose thrust is on political sciences or liberal arts. So it will serve the IIT best if it is free from intrusive politics – a responsibility that rests with both the administration and students.
- That said, authorities clamping down heavily on dissent on the campus is not a healthy development. Accepting some free speech that does not harm harmony or spread hate can serve students and the institution well. Criticism not accompanied by a sustained campaign to create social (or even political) ferment cannot be a cause for concern.
- But as this is a developing story, there are conflicting reports with some claiming that the group has not been derecognised and that it has only been clipped of some of its privileges.
- The development has, however, reignited doubts on the increasing saffronisation of education in India, with charges that people linked to the RSS are getting plum assignments.
- The Education / HRD Minister, Mrs Smriti Irani, who does not have a regular college degree but lied about having graduated from Yale, has been facing criticism for interfering with the functioning of the IIT and insulting its directors, one of whom (a well-respected person among the academic and student communities) even had to resign after being humiliated by her.
Mrs Irani makes up for her lack of good education with her proficiency in English – and arrogance! So, will the IITs continue to be India’s pride or will it fall a prey to the political games of the BJP? On the positive side, though, since Mr Modi and the BJP have expert marketing skills, they may be able to ensure a higher ranking for the IITs in global ranking lists.
G Joslin Vethakumar