Note: This is a rather long and angry post about something stupid I recently watched on TV. Why does that deserve a post? I don’t know, but I think it is important to provide some amount of truth to counter grossly misrepresented facts.
I’ve been extremely angered and disappointed with the undeserved venom and hatred being directed towards IITs all over the popular media. It looks like the rest of India thinks IITs are some kind of over-hyped subsidized assembly lines to take in nerdy kids without a life and give them all jobs worth millions, which they obviously don’t deserve because they don’t play sports, don’t do research and have no right to waste the nation’s money like this. They’re just robots who’ve spent all of their life after Grade 6 running a rat race that the rest of the kids were smart enough to avoid and have a life instead. Here’s some insanity from Quora, that just shows how much people like maligning something they’ve decided to hate: Forcing IITians to stay in the country, IITians not working hard enough – there’s more, which you can easily search for. Hatred just spews out if you read some of the answers and opinions people have about IITs in general. But, a small bunch of buffoons on the web cannot anger me, because they’re just faceless wimps with an Internet connection. My cause of anger is this supposedly “critical” debate about fat paychecks in campus placements (IIT Bombay). When a national news channel decides to call in a “holier-than-thou” uninformed self-proclaimed expert to judge whether the IITs have been worth all the trouble to the nation, it makes me cringe. If you have time, I would like you to watch the video of this debate here, which is basically the reason I’m writing this post: IIT Placements: Fat Paychecks, but at what cost?  To be very honest, this is mindless obsessing over a single good paycheck. It is nothing new, nor will it be the last such. Who asked you to define success in terms of paychecks and then go crazy about it? Now, I’m all for the freedom to have your own opinion and express it publicly, but what I will just NOT tolerate is incessant misrepresentation of facts, and the attitude where making populist statements gets you the applause. As much as the Internet is about free propagation of knowledge, it is filled up with idiots, and no, just because you take in tweets from opinionated uninformed people doesn’t mean your show is advanced and novel. An unbiased and smart moderator can work wonders, but that is something most of these news hosts are not.
Host: IITs have become the path to success and it is a trend to get your kid into IIT and ensure that fat paycheck. No, you fools. Getting into any college does not ensure any kind of success. The only thing that the law guy rightly says is that it is all about ability, which is true. There are successful non-IITians, and there are wasted IITians as well. But then he goes on to say that you’re giving up your life to get into IIT. Yes it is hard work, takes an effort, but who is giving up on what? Does he think IITians don’t play sports? Has he ever stepped inside an IIT and seen the scale of facilities that students have access to? You’re talking about art? I’ve seen some amazing amateur musicians, photographers and artists who are students of IIT. That apart, neither the IITs nor the students themselves claim that getting into IIT ensures success. It is just one of those delusions of many naive Indian parents, and also our show host here. Go educate them, don’t hold vendetta against the IITs.
Host: You don’t play sports, you give up so much in life. That’s ridiculous! No, it isn’t. Let me tell you what is ridiculous – your dumb parents who put their kids to the grind. I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous – this law school guy sitting beside you and passing judgment. Yes, India has no Olympic credentials because of a lot of reasons, and your parents are to blame for that, maybe. But please keep the IITs out of this debate. Just to point out how ridiculous this sounds, I might blame the poor state of Indian courts on people like our law guy on the show, who waste their time appearing on dumb shows on TV.
Law guy: Success was never about attending these “label” institutes, success is about what performance. Yawn! Dude you just repeated your point. We’re not even disagreeing with you. The only person who ever said that IITs ensure success was the host of this show. Go eat her head.
Law guy: I’d like to put this question across there: How much research is happening in IIT, and how much in terms of research is IIT as an educational institute of engineering contributing to the economy of scientific development in this country. That’s the question you need to answer. Is there any quality research going on in IIT to make a quantitative contribution to the Indian economy or fat paychecks or success. Wow, big words this guy uses. Until this point in the debate, I would have given the benfit of doubt to this law guy. But as soon as he said the above words, I just knew he was no different from those angry young men who blame capitalism for all their family problems. I think Siddharth (the guy with the job) did a good job at tackling this question, by stating that it is the undergraduate program that gets hype at IITs, which doesn’t necessarily imply research. We have the IISERs, ISIs, IMSc and IISc which are more of research institutes. While many (in fact most) IITians continue living and working in India, even those that leave the country do send money back. Too heartless, and too little contribution to the country, you think? Well, what is your neighbourhood businessman doing? Is he sacred just because he lives in India and cheats you? No, grow up. Realize that everybody first wants a good life for themselves. This is what the news host is doing, this is what the law guy will do when he graduates. It is unfair to single out IITs to take the blame for not producing enough people who “serve the community”. Siddharth even clearly points out that all the hype over a few super-jobs is even more unjustified, because average salaries aren’t all that high anyway. Meanwhile, a tweet from a viewer was kind enough to point out that IITs get the hype because there aren’t enough institutes in India to match the high standards. Well, even IITs have glaring faults, if you ask me, but that’s a topic for another day. And then, our law guy goes full throttle again.
Law guy: Fat paychecks are not the hallmark of excellence of this institution. Any higher education institution is known by the research that its faculty and its professors do. What is the class research that the IITs have to boast of? It is admitted by the government itself that there is no class research going on in the IITs, and as a higher education institution has nothing to boast of in terms of excellent institutions. The IITs are not exactly teaching what the industry wants. How many of the big companies, whether it is Infosys, or the Tatas spend on training on IITians who come out of their institutions. Therefore, education is not really what’s happening at IITs. It’s perhaps better amongst the worst, and therefore, gets this kind of labelling that it does. […] How many times is the curriculum of the IITs updated, or how dynamic is the curriculum of each of the departments at the IITs. This part said by the law guy made me shudder at how people can know zilch and be so confident. It is people like him who make populist statements, and tend to gain popular sympathy. But what’s inaccurate is inaccurate. Of course, fat paychecks say nothing, but again, let’s talk about research, since our law guy wants to define IITs by research. What research can IITs boast of? I doubt this law guy ever heard about the AKS Primality test, which was done in IIT Kanpur, by people from IIT Kanpur. It was path breaking, but I don’t expect the law guy to know about either primes or complexity classes. What does he know about the academic projects that the IITs pursue? I have personally worked on two good projects during my stay at IIT, as have many of my friends. The students of IIT Bombay have worked for years and made a goddamn satellite, as have students from one or two other IITs too. While I admit that research at IITs doesn’t compare with the likes of MIT, but compared to any other engineering college in India, IITs are way better. I say this because I’ve interacted with people from other colleges, seen the kinds of projects they do. I don’t intend to undermine anybody’s work here, but the fact is that the amount of exposure, and most importantly, the brilliant peer group and professors at IITs make a lot of good work accessible to students. When did the government admit that IITs have no class research going on? Did Kapil Sibal wake up to this whim one day and draft the report? But I don’t want to get into uncited assertions. Talking of not “teaching what the industry wants”, has the law guy even compared how much Infosys and Tata are spending on training graduates from other colleges? Or does he expect IITs to have courses like “Tata 101″ or “Infosys 101″? Wake up law guy, IITs teach you general techniques, and you must apply them as needed. That probably needs training, but so will you, if you join a law firm that specializes in Cyber law. I have no defense for the curriculum at IITs. It indeed is outdated in many departments. The Computer Science department at IIT Bombay has a very good and extensive curriculum, with some brilliant courses, but that is all I know, so I take offense when some uninformed non-expert with a mic undermines what I have studied, and what I know has merits. Other departments, I will not talk about, because, like a good man, I don’t judge things I have no knowledge about.
Tweet: Sending remittances back to the country is not the same as working in the country. Sending money home is not a favour to the country. Okay, well, Mr. Tweeter, what are you going to do instead? If you’re the average citizen, which I think you are, you are going to earn money and save it for yourself, for your family. Why do you expect saintly behaviour from students of IIT? Everyone wants the best for themselves, and some people have the skills to make it big, in whatever part of the world. Why does that make you angry Mr. Tweeter? I got a great opportunity to work with a good research group in the USA, does that mean I should not be here owing to some notions of pseudo-patriotism? No thank you, I believe in contributing to society, with whatever I do best.
Law guy: How many patents have IITs filed in recent years? Honestly, I’m losing track of the point in this debate. It looks more and more like one guy with a random vendetta, and another guy trying to introduce sanity into the discussion, while a stupid chick pitches in occasionally with misjudgment after misjudgment. When I started writing this blog post, I was pretty charged with the stupidity I witnessed in this video, but now I’ve sort of numbed down, and it has become boring. The law guy goes on to state that in countries like the US and UK, with successful education systems, innovation has happened, blah blah. Dear law guy, give India the resources in terms of money and infrastructure, and a few dedicated people at the helm of affairs, and you will see how talented the students at IITs really are. You will also see the research and patents that you desperately crave for. Give us freedom to choose our majors, reduce the rigidity in the curriculum, make it more innovation oriented, and you will see the difference. Until then, just live with the fact that some (not all) of the best analytical minds in the country are in IITs, and they will keep getting the fat paychecks whether you like it or not. And at this moment, as it always happens when the debate is getting heated or things are reaching a conclusion, the host pitched in and announced time’s up! Just as an indication of how ill-conducted this entire debate was, here’s what the guy with the job has to say: https://www.quora.com/Siddharth-Bhattacharya/Posts/State-of-affairs-of-Indian-media-my-NDTV-interview What do I have to say about this? Just shut the IITs down, will that make you people happy? Better still, let us put all the homeless people into the vast areas that IITs pointlessly occupy. Will that be enough contribution to the society by the IITs?
- What happened here? A final year student at IIT Delhi got a $150k job in the US. Yes, that is a lot of money, but by American standards, it isn’t like you’re Vijay Mallya. Of course, Indians simply treat the $ sign as x50, so all of a sudden, they cannot digest that a 20 something kid is going to earn that much, while they work in their dreary government offices with seeping walls. To expose the truth, NDTV came up with a “novel” show, in which they called a very very smart 2nd year law student to pass judgment on IITs and what they’ve done for the country. Also called is the guy with the new job, and they’re made to debate. A debate that obviously is not going to go anywhere.↵
- The guy with the job belongs to IIT Delhi. Why is the debate talking of placements at IIT Bombay? Weird.↵
- I will avoid saying this is a case of “sour grapes”, because I’m too humble to do that. And it would also be unfair to all the sane people out there, and my belief that the IITs really don’t ensure success.↵