Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BITS and pieces - reservation comes to Pilani

(I had posted this on my personal blog a little while ago. But considering the subject, I thought this might be a better forum for this post.)

After years of resisting Government interference. by avoiding UGC grants and federal funding and being supported primarily by the Birla group, BITS Pilani finally got bullied into the reservation mess by Arjun Singh and his goons. Rashmi Bansal summarizes this fiasco in her aptly titled post Another one BITS the dust?

On May 29, the very day the Supreme Court observed that quotas can divide the nation and asked the Government to explain its rationale behind the 27% OBC quotas, HRD Minister Arjun Singh further tightened the quota screws on the higher-education sector, both public and private.

In a note prepared that day for the Cabinet, his Ministry has proposed a legislation with provisions that give the Government unprecedented power not only to impose quotas in over 100 “deemed universities” over and above 32 Central institutions but also to regulate their fees, selection procedure—and even take punitive action.

So not just IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, the institutions which are brought into the 27% OBC quota net include Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani; Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Pune’s Symbiosis International Education Centre and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

We BITSians have always been fiercely proud of ourselves. We knew BITS Pilani could have had better libraries, labs and furniture if only we went begging to UGC for funding. But we realized that this would come with strings attached like reservations, entrance exam mandates and such. And we decided we would rather have the best students than the best facilities. We were secure in the knowledge that only the creme de la creme of India would qualify to be our classmates and competitors at BITS. We were admired when we graduated, and the BITS brand name was second only to the IITs in India.

Well, say goodbye to the perfect world, because politicians like Arjun Singh have decided to dishonor the sanctity of private and elite universities and bring them all under Government control. I have no idea how the Government can suddenly manipulate the constitution so they can exercise control over institutes like BITS. What's next? Can these so-called OBCs have job reservation quotas in Reliance, Infosys and Wipro once they graduate from BITS and IITs through their reservation quotas?

Don't get me wrong. I believe that India has to have some kind of affirmative action in place to accelerate the development of those who have been left woefully behind in our society. But such over-arching and generic reservation schemes will only do more harm than good - they will further divide our society on the basis of class and cause resentment and hostility between them. More thought should go behind such schemes, and reservation should be done more along economic lines rather than just based on class. The push should come at the primary school level, so that these backward classes will have come up to par and ready to compete on equal terms with everyone else when they are ready to enter college.

Much has been said against this reservation scheme by the public, regular media and bloggers alike. But we all know how this is going to end. Even when all this was going on, I did not for a minute stop and think that my BITS Pilani would be subject to this disgrace. For we've always stood away from the rest of the pack and made our own path. We've always prided ourselves for our independence and freedom from Government-imposed quotas and restrictions. All that has been felled in one swoop. And for what?

I'm glad I graduated from BITS Pilani when I did, secure in the knowledge that I rubbed shoulders with the best India had to offer. It pains me to see that this might not be true anymore. Yes, Arjun Singh and company will leave a legacy behind. A legacy that will be India's bane. A legacy that will leave many a broken heart and shattered dream in its wake.

PS: I would love to hear other BITSian opinions on this issue. This post will be updated with your comments.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Being a BITSian in Bangalore

I went to an office party that a friend invited me to. And looked around. There were a whole host of familiar faces. The place was teeming with Bitsians. The ones who work for the company and a zillion others who had been invited. It was so full of our kind that if anyone were to pick up a stone and throw it at random it would most likely fall on a BITSian.

At work, there are three BITSians in my team. I never had adjustment problems, there were always three people willing to take care of me without even the managers request.Subsequently the VP heading our team also turned out to be a BITSian.

There are also a lot of BITS people working in other teams. At one random foosball game that we were playing in office, there were about 8 people standing around. And one of my bitsian friends seemed to know them all. She introduced me to them "Bitsian 2k, 2k1, etc etc etc...."

My roomie is a BITSian and so are a whole bunch of her colleagues. The folks I hang out with on weekends are BITSians from several batches.

Once my roomie and I (we werent roomies then) decided to sit at a window sill at Brigade Road and talk. We never got to do much talking to each otehr. Every five minutes (Im not exaggerating) a BITSian or a group of BITSians stopped by to talk to us.

Walk into any mall. Take a stroll down MG Road or Brigade Road, its the same story. BITSians are everywhere in Bangalore.

People ask me why I like Bangalore and why I feel at home.

Need I answer that question?