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Saturday, June 30, 2012

IITBHU : Such a long journey

Vide Notification no. F.No.8-5/2008-TS.I (Vol.-IV) from Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Act, 2012 (No.34 of 2012) has come into force on 29th day of June 2012 and consequently, the erstwhile Institute of Technology, BHU has become Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University), Varanasi w.e.f. June 29, 2012.
IT-BHU had always trait of becoming independent and autonomous. Now, that goal had been achieved. Speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru on 15th August 1947 : 'Tryst with Destiny' is coming in back of my mind. In 2009, IT-BHU was slated for conversion into an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) by amending the Institutes of Technology Act 1961 through The Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Act, 2011 which was passed by the Lok Sabha on 24 March 2011 and by the Rajya Sabha on April 30, 2012. The institute is now officially known as IIT-BHU.

To once visit in Varanasi is a very desirable fate and one accepts the fact that nothing is outside the realm of possibility in India. Irrespective of this, I don't know why I despise Varanasi while loving the college in equal proportion. The river Ganga that flows through Varanasi is a reservoir of filth, chaos and poverty, but also a meeting place for memories and belonging. I had expressed much anger in Banaras: A Bitter Memoir. Holy City of Kashi is the most sacred place for millions but mine love is limited to my college only.

An average ITian is a self contained creature and sometime desiring for an extra 'I'. However, an ITian richly deserve more than the quasi-IIT status. It is true that we all have walked on the roads of IT-BHU with a question in our hearts. Why is there so much bureaucratic and political hurdles in one small conversion ? May be Indian state can bear anything from corruption to nepotism, but an 'autonomy' to make its own decision is blasphemous !

There is always a pivotal moment of self awareness in a society that is held together for so long by the belief of superiority. We all know thoroughly about rise of new IITs and the gradual fall of ITBHU from its peak position. The fall was initiated long ago with internal politics, low funding and shoddy appointments. Even ITBHU introduced entrance pattern of IIT-JEE in 1971 only, it could not update itself with the changing times so quickly. However, much deserved yet over-hyped IIT brand continues to elude the institute. Administration, Faculty and Students of IITBHU need more interaction with the honest, progressive, modern and reasonable world outside of its own citadel.

Imminent effect of IIT Status is already visible through an upward movement in JEE ranks for IIT BHU. [Quick Analysis Here]. It appears to be name change for many but the first step towards great change has already been taken. There were few questions raised previously about future of ITBHU. See the winds of change has already started flowing among the faculty, alumnus, students and administration. After IIT, What Next?
'The Old order changeth, yielding place to New'
I cherish 'IIT tag' for ITBHU not because of the 'brand value' but because of the wide spectrum of 'autonomy' enjoyed by them. The tag will naturally attract higher ranked JEE candidates and procure high funding levels for faculty. I dreamed of college who should be identified with the liberty and opportunity. I dreamt once ITBHU such a place for me. I no longer cherish the dream and am driven by different ideology. Yet, this was a cause close to my heart. Opening of new IITs and up-gradation of old Institutions is a slow step towards reform in the higher technical education. I was personaly much against people who were opposing opening of new IITs as this may dilute the 'IIT' brand. This is much shameful that our best minds were more concerned about brand than scarcity of good institutions. Only under umbrella of IIT, the autonomy could have been achieved and now had been achieved.
“The job of the university is to not give society what it wants, but what it needs.”
A good way of spreading brand awareness and also making the best out of the time in the institute is to try to do something out of the box such as travel abroad for internships, leverage the IT-BHU network in securing jobs etc. The journey to this red letter day for IT BHU fraternity has been long and full of roadblocks. This could not have been possible without countless& well-wishers, proud alumnus, ITBHU administration, esteemed Professors and current students. They protested, lobbied and even gone public with their demand of the conversion. Kudos to all of them. There were opposition and blocks from the section inside BHU that were seeing threat to the heritage of Madan Mohan Malviya. With persistence, the milestone for upcoming glorious years had been achieved.

I am not yet convinced about how this move will benefit thousands of poor students. To be poor is to be without any entrance exam coaching or good schools. Already, there is a huge information gap between middle class and lowers class. People with good information and money set are less dependent on government spending and public goods. They are in much better situation to get an admission in any IITs at the end of school education. I hope that IITs should make reservation of seats for a youth from BPL card holder family. That will be a good initiative from such an old and prestigious Institute.

Changes are slow but inevitable. As time passes either we adapt or get left behind. The widespread serenity of VT has taught us to endure and have a patience for the cherished moment. I am happy to be a tiny part of heritage of both BHU and IIT system. Yet a question remains unanswered in my mind at this happy hour. Do the best students need the IIM or IIT stamp to be seen as special ?


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