Are we wasting huge money on IITians or are we victims of our myopic perspective?

After the resignation (and withdrawal of it on the same day) episode of Rahul Yadav (CEO of Housing.com), internet was again flooded with an old familiar discussion – is the amount of resources spent by the government for nurturing IITians a huge wastage? The question raises many implicit concerns, of which, the two most prominent ones are: a) are IITians not contributing as much it is expected from them? b) is the government wasting lots of money on them?

I, being a Muggle-grad, who qualified JEE but studied in IT BHU (which now, as they say, is upgraded to IIT BHU) often feel exasperated when I come across such questions, less because I am a product of this system and more because of interpretations of contributions and social expectations put forward by people.

It would be rude on my part to state that most of the arguments against facilities availed by IITians are results of ignorance, hypocrisy or sciolism prevalent in the society. Let us go through some of the most common concerns:

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Why does government spend crores on IITians?

Most of the unary calculations posted by people are so simplistic that they divide total budget by number of students to derive at cost per student, even without realizing that IITs support huge ecosystems which also include faculty members and lots of staff members.

Of the total expenditure, major fractions of money is spent on research labs and equipment – which are not only used by students of respective IITs, but also by students from other colleges pursuing research works in IITs, government projects and industrial projects.

If other facilities like campus, play-grounds, lecture halls, mess, etc. will be compared, IITs will not have huge advantages over other universities.

The percentage of budget allocated to research and development in India is meagre. In comparison to other developed nations, we are still much behind. If we expect IITians or top graduates from universities to contribute more to Indian organizations, we should ask the government to allocate more money to other organizations instead of cursing IITians and putting narrow-minded questions like, “Why does a Chemical Engineer start FlipKart?”

The ROI (Return on investment) is very low. What do we get in return for crores spent on them?

A report published in Business Standard states that “IITs spend Rs 3.4 lakh on a student yearly, while tuition fee is Rs 90k” People thus conclude that close to Rs 2.5 lakh per student per year is paid by the tax-payers; but do they get good value in return?

At one side, we want to create world class institutions that can ensure opportunities to all the candidates, irrespective of their financial conditions, and at other side, we question the intent? Irony is that we criticize capitalism, but we are uncomfortable with socialism too!

We ridicule our education system for acting as a stumbling block towards its objectives of achieving inclusive growth; we preach that the purpose of education is much larger than materialistic questions like “What is your CTC”; we talk about role of education in individual and social building and then we put a selfish question: “What do I get?”

And why is the same question not asked when it comes to other universities and institutes where education is ridiculously subsidized?

It would be illogical to compare contributions of IITians with contributions of other universities, but it would be insane if the contributions by IITians are understated.

Why do IITians move to high paying jobs instead of joining DRDO, ISRO or Indian Army?

I read an article on Scroll in which the author mentioned that “The army doesn’t get engineers and officers from the IITs. Between 1986 and 2006, not a single IITian has joined the Indian army,” and also added that “The DRDO has a shortage of more than 2,700 scientists, and it is stretched and overworked, but our world-class engineers don’t find it challenging.”

I can understand that some people can never get out of the perception that science and technology don’t only restrict to car repairing, missile designing or electric wire testing, but I expect them to understand that ISRO and DRDO use many components which are created by engineers, many of whom graduate from IITs.

However, the problem is bigger. Indian organizations fail to attract not only IITians, but creamy layers of any top universities. My friends had bad experience working with defense organizations. I, while doing my summer internship in SAIL, was suggested to choose MNC jobs over government jobs like SAIL Engineering, which not only pays you less, but also ensures that your motivation and talent is trapped forever in the labyrinth of bureaucracy.

And above all, graduation doesn’t define paths of your life, it shows you different paths you can choose.

Why did you they join MBA after wasting resources in metallurgy engineering?

This is the most common and in a way most unfair question ever asked. Why should IITians not join MBA? Is MBA reserved for people from some particular educational backgrounds? Will an IITian with an MBA not be a better manager of a tech company? Why shut off management to engineering graduates?

But if you still insist on that question. Yes, maybe an IITian joins MBA due to lack of opportunities, or maybe due to realization that he or she was not meant to become an engineer. Grant that freedom?

IITs act as Center of Excellence which attracts top talent from different part of the nation who together create a culture – much larger a job platform – and then they spread across the globe to contribute, as per their willingness. These people start companies like Infosys, Sun Microsystems, FlipKart, HCL which provide opportunities to many people; these people lead global giants and set high admiration for all types of graduates from India; these people lead MIT, Stanford, Bell Labs, Google, Tata Steel, Vodafone, Reserve Bank of India, etc. and inspire thousands of kids to go beyond regular jobs; these people become badass civil servants who die for their moral values, setting examples for many.


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