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 the age 17, only one could get selected. Some bad apples managed to get in, while some brilliant ones forewent the competition.
Nonetheless, with the selections done, this elite youth group was trained for four years, preparing them for the future. Thereafter, they were let out in the world to contribute. About one fifth, moved out of their country every year for (considering the past few decades) and 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 on their subsidized training?
The value of an IITian, or for that matter 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 all from middle class families; some from poor backgrounds. Half of the seats are reserved for traditionally backward communities. Through their qualification, the entire group of about 10000 has proved they should be receiving the best training of the land.
The four 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 education and for some even the post-graduation. The government subsidizes only 4 very costly years out of the 18-20 years. The 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 so hard at a young age. These graduates will have interesting and diverse work profiles, a lot of which will have nothing to do with their initial training. Yet they are 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 Gandhiji and Subhash Chandra Bose would also lag behind.
Patriotism means working for your nation, for your compatriots, making sure they have a peaceful and prosperous lives. IITians as a group, are adding to it 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.
Demeaning NRIs has also been easy for many of us. Till a few years ago, 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. They are not the most educated as we think.
Most of our NRIs are earning well, but rarely with an IIT or Ivy League degree. Most live in the middle-east countries. For every Silicon Valley NRI technologist, there are more than ten NRIs who don’t even know what Silicon Valley means. The rich among them are mostly businessmen, and only a few are IITians.
Canada is full of Punjabis, Middle East is full of Keralites and the USA full of Gujaratis, regions hardly known for producing IIT aspirants. And they are 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, based on not reality but perception.
IIT Delhi, 2008; IIM Lucknow, 2010
Author of book “Legacy”