The One about IIIT: The Great Institute

Disclaimer, Fact and Statement: It's not exactly a disclaimer. The fact is I do not intend a disclaimer. And the statement is that my fight has always been with ideas not individuals.
Notes: 1. Post contents are in regular font. 2. Italics are my random thoughts 3. Quoted text is excerpts from other articles. 4. The title is not sarcastic at all. 5. IIIT means International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. 6. I did my graduate degree from IIIT, Hyderabad.

The Great Society: A Libertarian Critique article by Murray N. Rothbard, which I was reading beholding it in context of contemporary governments and exploitation of poor, which actually is intended by the author. But suddenly the idea struck me that this article and given insights directly link to IIIT also.
It is long since I have left(rather rejected) writing posts about/on IIIT. Actually, I am not good at writing general stuff and apart from general stuff, I happen to have only controversial topics on or about institute, for which, having left the institute, I sometimes think I may not be appropriate person. So even if I press a few keys, my fingers don't press 'publish' button. But I guess, a tree can never leave its roots.

In sum, the most important fact about the Great Society under which we live is the enormous disparity between rhetoric and content.[link]

The state of affairs at IIIT is no different. An inarguable rhetoric of IIIT is that IIIT is the place 'where dreams come true'. But to me, reality seems utterly opposite, as I have experienced. At this point let me be clear that I talk of 'IIIT'(and from here on, unless specified) as IIIT administration and decision making authority. And let me be clear that if not all, most of my dreams that had any link with IIIT have come true also and I am not talking about any kind of injustice to me. Those dreams came true, but NOT because of IIIT. Perhaps because of hostels of the institute, wings and rooms of hostels, or perhaps classes of IIIT institute. To me, IIIT has always been an entity which takes pride in endeavors in which dreams of an individual(happen to be students) are suppressed for the sake of greater good of same individual without his conscious or unconscious consent. There are umpteen number of examples, I will explain in due post.
Before going ahead, first let me note the vision of IIIT as an institution
(courtesy: IIIT website )

  • To carry out advanced research and technology development in information technologies and their societal, scientific, industrial and financial applications.
  • To train and educate, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, engineers of outstanding ability who can become leaders in their profession.
  • To work closely with industry leaders and to help them in undertaking programmes needed in their sectors.

Research(Idea championed by IIIT): Research is something that IIIT has valued over and above anything else in any case and it is pretty much clear from its vision. The emphasis on research has been on such a scale that the vision seems to look like that of a research firm rather than an institute where education is imparted to students to make them self-sufficient in carrying out research or development. In no way, I am saying that research is a wrong aspect of an educational institute's priorities; an institute can keep research in high terms but that doesn't mean institute should dilute its immediate priority and devalue its other priorities.
The suppression of freedom starts as early as counseling for admissions, when dual-degree courses are offered from IIIT. There will be few who would like to take decision about the MS, when someone's immediate priority is to think about BTech. Most of them at that time, don't even know exactly what a 'research' is. IIIT institute is the one of the most craved for institution in AIEEE counseling because of the quality of education it offers. But IIIT itself takes advantage of this fact by making a certain number of seats mandatory dual-degree and thus trapping intelligent but not so lucky by rank students to serve its own humanitarian ideology. It is not difficult to argue here that giving the choice(as happens to single-degree students) of MS at the term of third year does make a far more flexible way to proceed. This is not the only problem.
Every possible attempt is made to divert attention of even single-degree students towards research. An environment is created where emphasis on choosing research field as a career path is deliberately given, rather than teaching a student to follow his ambitions and decide along his interests. Rhetoric in the name of research in general speeches of professors, lack of development project in comparison to research project, deliberate impositions on placement processes etc. are some of the things which constitute the parts of this environment. A number of conferences and talks are called upon yearly by IIIT related to technology and research. How many(if any) talks are organised from corporate companies or alumni to talk on corporate life or industry-work related topics, considering that 'service in industry' is the career most of the students will be going for, after completion of degree. I am not taking any negative stance against R&D. I am not saying students' interests(lets say placement process) should be given priority over other things but there should be at least workable freedom to pursue their interests(lets say placement process).
The question of argument against any deliberate attempt to create such environment, here doesn't arise as I myself have experienced such an environment and I am sure most of readers also feel the same way. This applies to any interest student want to pursue unless it harms others or sanctity of institution.
Two questions for introspection:
1. Has any under-graduate student ever heard any positive remark about corporate life or job from any professor or post-graduate?
2. How many times have you heard advantages of research life over(emphasis) corporate life from people who are plainly devoid of any experience in corporate life?

In my view research is the most important factor for human development, because research is basically other name for organised experimentation of ideas. And ultimately ideas are the factor which define the prosperity or development of a society or community. But then one should not demean the value of industry. Industry creates the need for new ideas and research caters that requirement. Then again, new researches and new ideas creates new markets and industry. In this sense, both of areas rides on achievements of each other and that is how a progressive society works. The question of comparing the careers in two fields is as stupid as slamming a revolving door. If you are in one field you cannot remain isolated from the other, but the priority should lie with your interests.

Imparting Human Values: The fresher student has not adjusted the environment of IIIT yet, he is made to follow the courses like Jeevan Vidya etc., another blow of humanitarian ideology on young minds.

Does anywhere in its vision IIIT says that it wants to impart 'human values' and 'education in broad sense' to its students? My point is that the primary goal of IIIT is to educate engineers, to make their careers and AIEEE rankers join IIIT for that same sole goal.
IIIT is not a high school so that it has to give human values to students and make good citizens out of them. The idea of giving broad education should lie with schools and if that doesn't happen then we should understand that problem lies with their primary education or system of primary education. Compelling the students those things at an adulthood stage can make matters worse (if matters are bad for example, a student doesn't have minimal human values to qualify him as IIIT-student). The thing is only aggravated by the fact that all such courses are made compulsory for freshers. Even if a set of courses(human values, industry specific, research specific) are provided in the institute by external parties then flexibilty should be given to students to have his own choice.

Then there are activities like Yoga etc which are totally from a different perspective grounds entirely unlinked to education. If something suits to the king of country why is it necessary for the population also to follow same thing? There are a number of Indian/Japnese/Korean/Chinese techniques like this which maybe good for health of mind and body and which can serve a number of individuals' business interests. But how the inclusion of these practices serve the goal of IIIT is debatable.

Extra curricular Activities: IIIT is always eager to pronounce the above activities(human values etc.) in the name of broad education. But the part, which is extra curricular activities, is always forgotten while pursuing the useless activities. The likes of sports/discussions/debates activities are compulsory for any student to evolve as a student. But the only heed given to those is mere for the necessity of compulsory credits. It's not a problem of students, its problem of institution which is impotent in providing necessary framework where students are ready to give favor to these activities over their project works/online games/blogging. The problem is such activities are thought to be pro-management interests which makes student divert from research-work or regular studies. It is time, in my view that institute should stop quibblling that students don't take part in such activities but instead should put necessary faculty and framework in place to enahnce such things.
Another point here comes to my mind that why was Yoga/Jeevan Vidya cannot be put in extra-curricular activities, afterall those things aptly suit the criteria of extra-curricular activities. The problem here again is again humanitarian ideology. Making these extra-curricular will either mean devaluing human-value courses or appreciate the value of other extra-curricular activities. Then IIIT will have to face the contradiction of seeing all the extra-curricular activities with the same eye as that of human-value stuff which will surely demean the basic goal of these activities of imparting humanitarian values.

Food: It would have been an injustice if I did not mention this. Perhaps some readers know the reason, but I hope not. Anyway, the idea of free market is laid waste when it comes to running messes(providing quality food to students, putting it in another way) in IIIT. Considering there are three messes, neither the students nor the caterer is given any freedom so that they can compete with each other so that competition itself makes sure that students will get good food. That anyway, has become acceptable to students I guess and enough has been said on that. On top of that there are contract-free extra mess(es) where supposedly students do all the work. If in anyway students want to work on their own then why can't they work in other messes? Why IIIT is biased towards a particular mess for which there is no contract, no questions are asked if it can run or not, there are no prohibitions etc. etc.? But every effort is made to squeeze margins of caterer of other messes, the result being bad quality of food. These messes need to be regulated(food quality, prices, timings etc.) not ruled by IIIT.

In the end, I would like to note that IIIT should be dispassionate and unbiased towards education. Like a state has no business being in business, IIIT has no business being biased towards one kind of ideology over another. There should be ample space for freedom for mature students of this institution to pursue their own dreams and take their own decisions. Even having a conflicting vision is not the main point. The point is IIIT should not dilute its core goal of creating engineers. The goal of IIIT is to create highly skilled engineer, whether the student uses the skills for earning money for himself or he uses it for greater good of society(research), should be prerogative of the student. IIIT should in noway try to influence the interests of students.
Ultimately, why a community tends to be biased towards truth of one belief over the other is a complex question.
But I guess in context of IIIT, perhaps I have the answer(perhaps - because I could never dig the hole deep enough). The essence of development in context of any community lies in the fact that new ideas are filtered for their usefulness and new innovations are nurtured. In this process, it is very important to have (a continuous flow of) multiple set of ideas and views such that depending upon time and place, most suitable ideas can be nurtured. When there is only one person at the helm of community to make decisions then the ideas are limited and facts are deviated from truth. As a result, progressive development stops taking place. Democracy is experimentation of majority and thus it is bound to progress unless it is unfair, on the other hand, autocracy is dream of one and living nightmare of many.
The humanitarian wishes to be a prime mover in the lives of others. He cannot admit either the divine or the natural order, by which men have the power to help themselves. The humanitarian puts himself in the place of God.
But he is confronted by two awkward facts; first, that the competent do not need his assistance; and second, that the majority of people … positively do not want to be "done good" by the humanitarian…. Of course, what the humanitarian actually proposes is that he shall do what he thinks is good for everybody. It is at this point that the humanitarian sets up the guillotine.[link]

Epilogue: Some individuals never appreciate anything for what it is or what it has achieved, but are always eager to prick out the drawbacks in possibly most obnoxious manner. I apologise, I never learned the art of appreciation. I am a creature of habit with a rebellious spirit. One has to do what he got to do. I got to do honest criticism.
All said, my fight will always continue with ideas and with myself. But it is sad to see people of IIIT not fighting for what they believed in or what they believe in. It is sad because IIIT was the range where I learned to shoot. Seems like Kurukshetra could not tolerate assaults of the realty market. And now Kauravas and Pandavas are both living together happily(ever after) in their respective apartments at 69th floor in Laakshya Mahal(or was it Palash Nivas or something?).(all puns intended)


  Parag Agrawal

5 January 2009 at 11:41

itni badi post .. how does one read till teh end ..