An IITian Responds To Justice Katju’s “IITians Are Selfish” Statement

[Editorial Notes : Justice Katju recently said that ‘IITians are selfish; have no genuine love for India‘. Mohan Prasad, IIT Delhi 2008 alum takes him head-on.]

Let me tell you a small story. There was a country called “B”. Every year its citizens organized a cut-throat competition to select its most brilliant crop of adolescents. Out of every 2000 of age 17, only one ends up selected. Some bad apples managed to get in, while some brilliant ones forewent the competition. Nonetheless, with the selections done, this chosen group was trained for four years, preparing them for the future.

Thereafter, they wiit-dere let out in the world to contribute. About one fifth moved out of their country every year in search of greener pastures while the others stayed back.

Every single rupee spent on this selected group has resulted in 15 rupees contribution to the economy. Everyone, on average, has managed to create a job for a hundred compatriots. Have we then wasted our resources subsidizing their training?

The value of an IITian, or any engineer, is not in the type of job they select right after college. It is in the value they would create for the Indian economy throughout their life. To begin with, IITians are mostly from middle class families; some also from poor backgrounds. Half of the seats are reserved for traditionally backward communities. Through their qualification, the entire group of about 10000 have to prove eligible to receive the best training of the land.

The 4 years are miniscule compared to the 50 year careers ahead. Moreover, their parents fund most of their school education, a significant part of their engineering training and for some even the post-graduation. The government subsidizes only 4 very costly years out of the 18-20 years. Notably, wards of the rich aren’t going to IITs, for it is not worthy of their time. Probably they don’t even want to work hard enough at a young age to merit selection.

These graduates will have interesting and diverse work profiles, many of which will have nothing to do with their initial training.  Yet they are mostly humble enough to acknowledge that IIT really helped them. Who says they are not patriots!

Definition of patriotism itself keeps evolving with circumstances, along a basic core. If fighting on the borders or serving the government defined patriotism, then Gandhi and Tilak would also lag behind.

Patriotism means working for your nation, for your compatriots, making sure they have peaceful and prosperous lives. IITians, as a group, are contributing to this every day. Some as entrepreneurs, others as venture capitalists; some as social entrepreneurs, others as politicians; some as innovators, others as business heads; some as writers and artists, others as institution builders. They are sending back remittances and carrying the flag of our nation high in technology and medicine in globally-renowned institutions.

Denigrating NRIs has also become easy for many of us. Until recently, we were calling our NRIs selfish. Now with the remittances and increased stature of India in developed nations, we are all gung-ho about them and are proud of them. The brain drain has become brain gain. Most of our NRIs are earning well, but rarely with an IIT or Ivy League degree. They are not the most educated as is popularly perceived.

Most are denizens of countries in the middle-east. For every Silicon Valley NRI technologist, there are more than ten NRIs who might not even know what Silicon Valley means. The rich NRIs are mostly businessmen, and only a few ever saw an IIT. Canada is full of Punjabis, middle-east is full of Malayalis and the USA full of Gujaratis, states hardly known for producing IIT aspirants. And they are definitely not dictating lifestyles and opinions to us living in India.

I hope Mr. Katju realizes how wrong he is on so many levels in his flashy statement, which is based not in reality but perception.

[About the author : Mohan was born in a small village of Samastipur district in Bihar, adjacent to the river Baghmati. He grew up to be the Bihar ICSE topper and went to graduate from IIT Delhi and IIM Lucknow. His love for Indian as well as world history, culture and human stories led him to explore evolution of societies and revolutionary movements across the world. The only village boy in his MBA class at IIM Lucknow, he has fortunately experienced firsthand two different Indias with their similarities and differences. He has been associated with Manisha Mandir, Lucknow – a home for destitute girls – and has also been awarded twice by the Governors of Uttar Pradesh for his social services. ]

1 comment

  • Dear Author
    Based on prior personal experiences, I am inclined to call this author a lemon. I have heard and in some cases known people of similar backgrounds but never have come across either a thought-process so confused or views so singular and narrow-minded. I am not an IITian but have always had respect for them and your views I feel undermine the intellect that most IITians are associated with. I really hope you guys aren’t all like you. That said I am not in anyway supporting justice Katju’s statement. His statement is reckless and doesn’t deserve the attention it seems to be getting. However the opinions you expressed to justify your rejection of Justice Katju’s statement are totally pointless and baseless. Your statement “Canada is full of Punjabis, middle-east is full of Malayalis and the USA full of Gujaratis, states hardly known for producing IIT aspirants.” alone is clearly stereo-typing and shows your lack of awareness of the demography of NRIs.

    “These graduates will have interesting and diverse work profiles, many of which will have nothing to do with their initial training. Yet they are mostly humble enough to acknowledge that IIT really helped them. Who says they are not patriots!”.. Humble enough?? Are you sure? Leave alone selfish, that is thankless attitude. You seem to suggest that your achievements have nothing to do with the society, the country, the subsidies or the name IIT, yet you want to claim personal credit for ‘making sure that people have peaceful and prosperous lives’? Well in answer to your question I say they aren’t patriots, and I am sure a lot of people will agree with me.

    “They are sending back remittances and carrying the flag of our nation high in technology and medicine in globally-renowned institutions.”. These remittances you refer to – are these to the Govt of India? or to a school? a hospital may be? or is it by some remote coincidence to your parents and siblings? You getting my drift? And you are carrying the flag of our nation? – by doing what exactly? – working in a highly-paid job for non-Indian companies that pay most of their taxes outside India.?

    “The 4 years are miniscule compared to the 50 year careers ahead. Moreover, their parents fund most of their school education, a significant part of their engineering training and for some even the post-graduation. The government subsidizes only 4 very costly years out of the 18-20 years.” I really hope you being an IITian aren’t serious about it. Because if you are, Justice Katju is probably right. Not only are they ‘just 4 years of 18-20 years’ but also the most defining ones. You probably don’t know how many jobless Indian non-IIT graduates wish they had graduated from IIT! I wasn’t one of those fortunately but nevertheless looked back and felt that an IIT degree would have probably given me more! But if it is this narrow-mindedness is what IIT would have given me, I thank my parents to have allowed me to find my own path.

    I am not saying I am doing any better than you in terms of giving back to my country, but I certainly don’t claim that I do!

    Good luck

    thanks for reading
    Nirmal

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