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Why IIT-Kharagpur saw no protest

By Smarak Swain
Last updated on: May 31, 2006 16:42 IST
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Everyone talks about the quota system nowadays. Everyone has a complaint and everyone has a view on this. What I was wondering is that even though everyone has a complaint, not everyone is joining the medical students who are protesting against the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs. For example, there is just no sign of protest at IIT Kharagpur.

I went to my friend Phoru's room to talk over the issue. Phoru keeps much information on current affairs and national issues. Phoru already had company. Phoru and Vikas were working on some assignment. I stepped in and asked Phoru about his views on the quota system.

The anti quota stir is misguided

"What views? Don't we people have the same views? These petty politicians are destroying our country for their short-sighted political gains. Damn! They already have 22.5 per cent quotas and now they want 27 per cent more for the OBC candidates," Phoru pointed out strongly.

"Yes yes. He is right. This government is destroying our country and its identity. Look how they are legitimising Bangladeshis in Assam," Vikas added.

"Really man, I am disgusted. Nothing can happen to this country. When the communal forces were defeated in the elections, I thought something good will happen after all. But this government is worse," Phoru said.

"But they are increasing seats so as not to upset the number of general candidate entrants, right?" I pointed out.

"What increasing seats? Our institute already takes in seven hundred under-grads every year and a lot more post-grads and research scholars. They have made a huge MMM Hall behind the tennis court just to accommodate the increased students. Even then you will find many freshers living in shared cell-size rooms," Phoru flared up. "On top of that there is a huge faculty shortage. If they increase the number of seats, they will have to bring in more professors and since there aren't enough qualified people around the quality is bound to decrease."

Stay strong, stay inspired

While Phoru was making his declamation, Kodali had entered the room and was keenly listening to him. He keeps nodding his head while you say something making you feel he is seriously following you and then makes sarcastic comments.

"Arjun Singh Sucks. We should do something about him," Vikas said.

"I have done something about him" Kodali said, "I have joined the Arjun Singh Hate Club on"

The worse part about Kodali is that you know he is making fun of you but he has such a serious look and states himself so earnestly that you can't strike back at him.

"That's no contribution. We need to raise our voice to save this country from doom. That's our responsibility as citizens," Phoru said.

"Voice?" Kodali said in a mocking tone, "A shareholder in a company has a voice, analogous to a citizen and his country. If you gonna raise a voice, tell me just how many in this room have voter ID cards?"

There was a silence for a second or two. True, getting a voter ID card had never occurred to me before.

"What do you mean by voted? We are not eligible... there is some age bar, isn't there?" Vikas asked.

The death of meritocracy

Even I agree that was the height of ignorance. Most of my batchmates are 21 years old and the eligibility age is 18. Kodali laughed his heart out at Vikas's statement.

"Look... we are deviating from the topic. As Phoru said, we need to raise a voice. Look at what medical students are doing. We need to learn something from them. We should make a protest march from Kharagpur to Kolkata. Or we can wear the black bands or do some hunger strike and such stuff," I pushed forward my ideas.

Everyone stared at me. I didn't say anything awkward or incredulous; still three pairs of eyes were piercing me. Suddenly Kodali broke into laughter and the others followed suit.

"Dude, listen. The medicos are protesting because of their own selfish concerns. They have a dozen more degrees to get after their MBBS. We in IIT don't have to worry about all that. Get a good private company job and then nothing to worry about. Else go for GRE; that ground is safe as long as Indian government doesn't implement quota on the number of Indian students studying abroad," Phoru reasoned.

"So does this all boil down to 'us' and 'them'? Man you are disgusting. It is because of people like you that our country is still in such a state," I stated aggressively.

"What state is our country still in? I thought it is in a continent called Asia," Kodali asked. It was becoming tough for me to take his questions. I ignored his question.

"Look, everyone has his own style of protesting. The medicos are protesting by banners and all. We are technocrats. We have our own style of protesting. Look at the number of forwards and messages we are sending. We are the marketing wing of the protest while the medicos are the operations wing. Both are equally important" Phoru said, more in a manner of appeasement.

Do our institutes connect with the real India?

"Besides, we are giving them moral support," Vikas said. I understood even Phoru and Vikas had joined in with Kodali in mocking me.

"Stop this crap. I am talking something serious. This quota is a plague that will paralyse our future generations," I tried to reason.

"I don't know about Vikas and Phoru but I am protesting in my own way" Kodali said.

"And what way is that?" I asked.

"Bharat Chodo Andolan. I and a group of like-minded students are trying to migrate to greener pastures like the States, Canada and Australia. A day will come when the whole country will be full of non-general candidates and there won't be any meaning of quotas. They will eventually lift quotas," said Kodali.

You can't be surprised at such a preposterous idea when it comes from Kodali. However, I couldn't much disagree with his statement. It has become a general belief among disillusioned students that nothing can be done in this country, so head towards foreign shores.

"Why do you, of all people, bother about such things man? First put yourself together then think about your future generations," Phoru told me.

"Or you can make a protest march from Kharagpur to Kolkata. I have no objection as long as you don't shout slogans anywhere near my room," Kodali said.

The discussion continued for hours but it was all loose talk. Just no one was serious. I couldn't much understand why everything is so passive on such a sensitive issue in engineering colleges. The medicos, I believe, have a more rigorous academic structure and this is the time of their year end evaluations. They have put a complete break on their projects and evaluations just to protest against a big blunder being committed and what are engineering college students doing?

Smarak Swain is a final year undergraduate student at the Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur

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Smarak Swain