MY VIEW: Patriotism – An IITian’s Response to Justice Katju’s Remarks on IITians

Recently, Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India, made the following remark while addressing students at Indian Institute of Technology:

“Most of you IIT students have no genuine love for the country. You are utterly selfish, with no patriotism or idealism.”

Justice Katju IIT

Justice Markandey Katju

Photo source: Twitter

This is what he mentioned on Twitter, post the event:

He further went on to elaborate:

An IIT Delhi alumnus, Mohan Prasad, has this response to the Justice Katju’s contention:

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 age 17, only one ends up selected. Some bad apples managed to get in, while some brilliant ones forewent the competition. Nonetheless, with the selections done, this chosen 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 in search of greener pastures while 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 subsidizing their training? The value of an IITian, or 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 from middle class families; some also from poor backgrounds. Half of the seats are reserved for traditionally backward communities. Through their qualification, the entire group of about 10,000 have to prove eligible to receive the best training of the land.

The 4 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 training and for some even the post-graduation. The government subsidizes only 4 very costly years out of the 18-20 years.

These graduates will have interesting and diverse work profiles, many of which will have nothing to do with their initial training. Yet they are mostly 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 Gandhi and Tilak would also lag behind.

Justice Katju IIT

Photo source: Wikipedia

Patriotism means working for your nation, for your compatriots, making sure they have peaceful and prosperous lives. IITians, as a group, are contributing to this 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.

Denigrating NRIs has also become easy for many of us. Until recently, 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. The brain drain has become brain gain. Most of our NRIs are earning well, but rarely with an IIT or Ivy League degree. They are not the most educated as is popularly perceived.

Most are denizens of countries in the middle-east. For every Silicon Valley NRI technologist, there are more than ten NRIs who might not even know what Silicon Valley means. The rich NRIs are mostly businessmen, and only a few ever saw an IIT. Canada is full of Punjabis, middle-east is full of Malayalis and the USA full of Gujaratis, states hardly known for producing IIT aspirants. And they are definitely 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, which is based not in reality but perception.

– Mohan Prasad

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About the author: Mohan Prasad was born in a small village of Samastipur district in Bihar, adjacent to the river Baghmati. He grew up to be the Bihar ICSE topper and went to graduate from IIT Delhi and IIM Lucknow. He now wants to present the story of India with a fresh and interesting perspective through inspiring tales of young and ambitious individuals.

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