Why not in India?

I emailed Rashmi Bansal, then editor of Just Another Magazine or JAM on August 9, 2006 requesting her to publish this article on JAM. She replied saying a part of this will be published in JAM with the article posted on the website. I think neither happened. Hence, posting here.

When we read foriegn technical journals available in our college library, students often think, when will we reach that stage? The thought is even shared by some Professors. While others think that engineering education is enough of a burden for students without adding the additional burden of innovation and enterpreunership. Engineering education in India is a fixed subject each semester and there is absolutely no flexibility of choosing some subjects of your own. This is because classrooms are constant and teachers have to circulate from classroom to class room to go to each class. An attempt to give the description of engineering education is a little overwhelming, but that’s the basic. 

Within this framework too, there are students who manage to develop their own projects and also do well academically. Doing well academically implies getting a good job and sufficiently good salary, the primary reason for choosing engineering. Students do not choose, or atleast the majority of the students do not choose engineering because they like it. They choose it because it is the easiest path to getting money and lots of it. After four years of hardwork and a little industrial experience you’re ready to face the big bad world. We cannot blame the students for the desire for money. That desire arises because of the need to support their  family as their parents age and are unable to do work or retire. This leaves most of the other branches open with empty seats and poor quality of students (the majority of them atleast). Engineering and Medicene are the most sought after branches of education. 

Why dont things like a project of building rockets or a student-run newspaper happen in India? What stops them from taking a step further and actually going ahead and building rockets or starting their own magazines? Learn and Earn are the only two principle objectives of the student in India. If you think that we lack ideas, I shall give you a few. Let’s see how many people can do this in India, with all the obstacles of education, examination and bureaucracy. 

Idea 1: Start a student-run newspaper, circulated initially within campus and then extended to other colleges without a central command at any of the college. How do you think online open source projects work? Some thing like that. Available for free online on a website. You can take a copy, print it and post it on your college notice board, with permission of course. Cover all the topics that you need to cover. Advertise by word of mouth. Just look at the number of students in Mumbai. I think there are enough writers to contribute say a 10 page newsletter. 

Idea 2: This one is for the engineering colleges. How about a rocket making competition? Make rockets that touch a certain height. Ask the Government where we can launch them and have the competition somewhere safe. It doesn’t have to go to space. A height of say 10 meters or whatever is safe. 

Idea 3: Most of us go to coffee shops right. Why not a student run coffee house chain? This will help students of home science and integrate with students who do management. This is a basic concept. Anything to do with management and a thing useful for student goes well with us. Recruit the famous wada pav wallas of your area and make your concept better. You know the streets and you know the people who make certain things well, you have it done don’t you? 

That’s just three ideas for starters and in three areas that I can remember – mass communication, engineering and management. You can think of tons more. Student projects and initiatives are encouraged across the globe. So, why doesn’t it happen in India? We ask that question, say that’s life in India and move on. Well, we got to atleast make a start on something so that future generation of students are able to hone their skills that assures that the future of the country remains bright. We can’t just hope that among the millions of engineers atleast one another Narayan Murthy comes up with another Infosys, we gotta believe that 10 Narayan Murthys with 10 Infosys comes up within the next 15 years. Target 30 for the next 30 years and so on. Beat our targets year after year. 

Is anyone of you ready to take the challenge? We have IIT-Bombay right here in Mumbai. Why don’t they organise a rocket competion? Why don’t we have flea markets in college festivals. College students are the ones who like to buy stuff cheap. I mean mostly. So, college festivals would be a good place to trade and bargain. Management students can research then, on how well that works and give us some figures. The ideas are endless but the commitment and desire to do the job is what it takes at the end of the day. Do you have it in you to atleast implement the three ideas stated above?