IITians to form think-tank

(This appeared in The Times of India months ago)

The CEOs are back in the institute which gave them the license to fulfill their dreams. And now, they are determined to give back to the nation where they build their private empires. The alumni of the various Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) are forming a think-tank which will regularly bring out policy papers on key issues affecting the country such as affirmative action, rural entrepreneurship and technical education.

Founder of Mastek Ashank Desai, who attended the alumni meeting held during the PanIIT meet held at the IIT-Madras campus in the city on Friday, said that it was up to the IITs to fill the vacuum caused by “the paucity of think-tanks in India.” “These think-tanks, like those in Western countries, will influence governance.

Papers by industry leaders will be published regularly. We will meet soon to decide on a champion. These papers will present the IIT’s stand on various issues to the government,” he said. Desai said papers to be presented on affirmative action will not be restricted to the reservation policy of the government, which he said was “only a part of the concept of affirmative action.” Asked what the alumni had decided at the end of the two-hour, closed-door meeting, he said it was an ongoing process that will continue through PanIIT and culminate at a seminar on Sunday morning.

“We formed groups today and alumni members have just begun contributing to their chosen fields. We will draw up an action plan on Saturday and on Sunday these issues will be discussed in a wider session,” he said.

Ashok Kalbag, the newly-appointed secretary-general of the distinguished alumni, which everyone in IIT refers to as DA, said, “Ideas such as nation building and advocacy, which were the aims of having the PanIIT meet in the first place, will be furthered through the alumni as well. Kalbag, who has left his full-time job with an NGO Vigyan Ashram to lead the DA, is keen to ensure that the former IITians “see some progress in the task of nation building”.

These papers drawn by the think-tank, which will be published, will also be presented to the Union government as the stand of the IIT on leading issues of the day, Kalbag said. The who’s who of the industry and various government organisations was present at the meeting. The introductory part revealed that some the country’s most brilliant minds, including CEOs to IT companies and the director of the recently formed Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Thiruvananthapuram were present.

Most of them had passed out of the IITs in the late sixties and 1970s. B Muthuram, CEO of Tata Steel, B Santhanam, managing director, Saint Gobain Glass India, and Harsha Manglik, chairman and managing director of Accenture India, besides two former IITians who had gone to become directors of IIT-Guwahati and IIT-Delhi were also present.

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