“You are in IIT Delhi, you are the cream of the nation”, “I am standing in front of the brightest minds in the country”, “I feel honoured to be talking to the students from the top-most college of India”, “You are the future of the country and we have hopes from you”…
These are just some of the rhetoric that one can hear in the opening lines of almost every extra-curricular guest lecture at IIT. These were also the rhetoric that in a way motivated me to study hard and get into an IIT. The mere notion of being an IITian continues to propel many to spend two youthful years to study and crack the entrance examination. Now that my exit from IIT is hopefully very close, I wonder if there is a hypocrisy in the way we behave or think. This may be a pan-human phenomenon, not just specific to IIT. But since the country has high hopes from us, we might as well live up to them.
In the new political discourse in India, we have an ever rising awareness against corruption. People want a say in governance. We are looking for fresh politics and leaders from different political parties are calling upon the youth. Many such youth study at IIT, some of whom are my close friends associated with different parties. More generally, almost every other student (including me) can be seen commenting on political affairs on Facebook. We behave like we are providing solutions to the biggest challenges in the country. There is a talk about accountability, transparency, participative democracy, development, good governance and so on. It is a charged up atmosphere where we have become politically active, rightly leaving behind political indifference. We can even find a mix of healthy discussions and never-ending arguments on Facebook posts. Amidst all these developments, there is something that scares me. We are becoming very aware and critical of our system, but is this accompanied by a similar awareness of our own attitudes? Whose responsibility is it that the society functions properly? Is it the system alone or do the individuals also have some responsibility? A peek into our thoughts processes and actions will help.
‘Right’ vs ‘duty’: We live in a society where we are pretty aware of our rights as citizens. We know that there is a system in place that has to ensure our safety, a system to ensure justice, a constitution that makes me an “equal”. Then there are rights that I love to avail. A right to education, a right to employment, a right to a subsidy, a right to reservation. I ought to have a road, clean water, power supply, and subsidized education. My minister should be honest, my parliamentary representative should attend Lok Sabha sessions regularly, and the government officers should be suspended for corruption. We are very conscious of our rights. Are we also conscious of our duties? Or is it that the system can have duties, not an individual…?
I have listed a few examples from IIT Delhi, the TOP most college etc. etc. where I feel we as students can do much better rather than just complaining about our system.
Etiquette: It is sad that people do not yet care about littering in public places, people spit on roads, and families clean their homes by throwing the garbage in the next empty plot. You come out of the Delhi airport and move 3 kilometers into the city, and there it is – heaps of roadside waste created during the day and cleaned at night. Move 500 meters away from IIT gate and a similar situation. IIT has a very clean environment, but move 10 meters into the hostels after midnight and lo! Hundreds of used paper plates lying on the mess tables, while a poster says in vain “please throw used plates in dustbin”. For someone from outside, it will be difficult to believe that students from India’s top-most institute can create such a mess in their mess.
Corruption: Of course the politicians have to be honest. The government employees have to be honest. The judges and media persons have to be honest. And an individual has to be honest unless it is me. A minister who stores public money in Swiss accounts is corrupt, a sports secretary who inflates bills is not. Someone who eats money during commonwealth games is corrupt, someone who does it in Rendezvous is not. A civil servant who delays work is corrupt, a student who copies lab reports is not. A political party which does not reply to RTI queries is corrupt, a student who plagiarizes assignment is not. An MP who does not attend parliament sessions is corrupt, a student who marks proxy attendance is not. In a recent development, around three hundred students in their 1st year of IIT were booked under disciplinary committee for copying assignments.
Politics at home: Dynastic influence, the power of money, and the power of muscle have to go away from politics. People should be selected on the basis of their caliber, educational qualifications, professional history, and social service to name a few. It is time that Congress does not give tickets to those who bootlick the Gandhi family. Ever wondered how does politics happen at IIT? Who applies for candidature, who gives ‘tickets’ to them, who heads the various departments during a fest…? Thankfully the administration is bringing in measures to improve the political culture at IIT, but is it a change that was demanded by the student community?
One can notice several other cases in which students depict hypocrisy. I once roamed around in my hostel to check if students leave their tube-lights ‘on’ when they are not in the room. It will be interesting for others to do a similar experiment. But of course, it is different when a politician wastes public money on houses, cars, and advertisement.
Someone once said that we are all corrupt, the level of corruption depending on the opportunity we have. Maybe it is true. But maybe it is not the responsibility of an individual to care about the society. There can be different theories on an individual’s role in society, but we should think of what will bring good to us and others.