Indian “Core” Industry? Ridiculous!

In its recent decision, IIT Madras has decided that students in their third years of engineering may complete their internship requirement at Indian “core” industries only (via vatsap). This rules out students who are interested in research to do their internship in universities in India or abroad. There are many students who are not happy with the rule and have clearly expressed their anger in IITM Squirrel mail.Let me justify why this rule doesn’t make sense.

Firstly, IIT Madras is a deemed institution and can take any decision it wants. I am not here to contest that. On the outside, this rules does make sense. We are given a degree in a specific branch of engineering, and are expected to meet certain standards set by the institute in order to get one. Exposure to Industry is one of them. And since it is “mechanical” engieering, “electrical” or “aerospace” engineering, we need exposure to the respective “core” industry. Dig a little deeper and the reasoning is flawed in academic interest.

“Core”

Few months back, I remember reading an article my Richard Dawkins on thinking in groups or categories and drawing lines between them. He talks about evolution saying there is little difference between humans and non humans but we have different set of “moral” rules for human and non-humans. This imaginary line that we draw, between humans and non-humans or different branches in engineering, is quite unhealthy. We ought to learn to see them as a range rather than categorize them into different branches. Entire stream of engineering is held together by mathematics. What we learn in a given field is applicable in the whole spectrum of branches. What we learn in Atmospheric modelling can very well be used by a business analyst in stock market prediction or in signal processing by an electrical engineer. If the institution is trying to confine the knowledge of its students to their “core” branches alone, growt beyond boundaries is impossible. As such, we have a *lot* of core courses to deal with, lot more than any reputed school in USA. Core Industry restriction isn’t gonna be of a good help when it comes to all round development. I am unable to find that article by Dawkins. Please send me the link if you have it.

It is an open secret that it is the parents who choose the stream of education for their children, be it engineering, medical or law. Sometimes wrong choices are made. I know students who have not been happy with engineering and have shifted over to pure science, management or even changed branches within engineering. I myself migrated from Mechanical Engineering to Computer Science. In almost every case, internships is the “new” area has helped the students. In IIT Madras itself, I have attended talks by profs who refer to other eminent prof who have explored a number of fields during their career. Their justification has simply been, “its not on my forehead that I have to be a physicist just because i have a BSc in physics”. Why is it that the same profs are trying to discourage student from venturing into new area with the core industry restriction?

“Industry”

Best research happens in universities or research labs, not in industries. India needs researchers. More the merrier. Research and development needs a push. It is these professors who often complain that student are not interested in research, and are attracted by fat pay packages by industries. I know a lot of students who would have done great in an industry but have chosen a research career out of sheer interest. Isn’t the new rule shunning students , who are interested in research, away from it???

“Indian”

What is our obsession with being totally Indian? Shashi Tharoor had asked in TOI column about the apparent insecurity in Indians to change city name from Bombay to Mumbai etc. Is the same insecurity at play here for restriction internships to Indian Industries alone? Sharing knowledge helps, even if it’s beyond political borders. There are a number of students who have had accepted journal/conf papers from interships abroad. I am sure some students whould have carried on their work from internships to final year projects. Going abroad also means brining in ideas and knowledge. It’s not a one-way traffic. I remember out professor lamenting about not having projects by B. tech. students worthy of being recognised internationally. Well, this new rule isn’t going to help that either.

The purpose of an educational institute, roughly speaking, like IITs is to make a contribution in technology to the society. This ‘society’ is not restricted to Indian society alone. Who is the best judge on how a student can make this contribution? Obviously the student himself. It must be upto the student to decide what best for him, and consequently to the society.