Letter from Alumnus

Below we reproduce a letter written by Prof. Kanchan Chowdhury. Originally posted as a comment it is reproduced here to bring it to the attention of the public.

I am a B. Tech. (Mechanical), Patel Hall, 1973-78 and Ph.D., B.C. Roy Hall, 1979-83. Currently a Professor at Cryogenic Engineering and also, President, IIT Kharagpur Teachers’ Association. Opinion given herein is my personal and necessarily does not reflect that of teachers body IITTA.

I came back at the campus 4 days after Rohit died due to our neglect and heard about the students’ reaction expressing their strong emotion at the Director’s residence. Since, I am also a Professor at IIT and President of the Teachers’ Association, I chose to give our reaction to the current situation in the form of a memorandum submitted to the Chairman, BOG on the 27th March, 2009. However, the alumnus in me has forced me to write this mail to Scholars Avenue.

1. Nobody supports violence. However, to those who are castigating the students for ransacking the Director’s residence, let me tell you that such an incident is not unprecedented at IIT Kharagpur. 33 years ago, in 1976, during the tenure of Prof. C S Jha, the exterior of Director’s residence was ransacked (though on a lower scale) by agitating students aggrieved on mess condition. The difference between 1976 and today is that during our time media was not so active. That is why the incident did not find that attention and has been forgotten.
In spite of many strikes and agitations, we could do nothing to change the condition of the mess and hostel.

2. Medical neglect and death due to negligence is not new at IIT campus. Students are not the only victims. In front of my own eyes, wife of a professor died gasping for breadth, because the ambulance (!) by which she was brought to B C Roy Hospital from her home after an asthmatic attack did not have oxygen cylinder fitted in. In spite of murmurs and talks, nothing happened. When students complain that they are left into the jaws of death, are they really wrong?

3. After becoming a faculty here, I thought I will do something for the students for which I suffered as a student myself. In 1994, I became the Warden of a Hall. I found how the food is stolen and how students’ money is doled out to appease local political party. I tried to stop these practices, but vested interest grouped against me and I was asked to resign. I refused, as I was sure that I am on the right track. Finally, after 90 days of assuming charge, I was sacked by Chairman, Hall Management Committee without citing any reason.
When the students complain that the system is corrupt, are they really far from truth?

4. Though it is true that it is the system that is at the root of all trouble, I completely agree with the students that for any incident, such as Rohit’s death, which may be a lapse of the system, “heads must roll”. Because, in case we assume that the system is doing everything, those particular heads are not important enough to linger on to the chair any way. And in case the heads were doing it and not the system, they must take the responsibility for their action or inaction. Anyway, these are the heads that allowed such a system to perpetuate. Otherwise, in democracy, how shall I make myself being heard? To those who are crying hoarse telling that everything is lost about IIT’s reputation, let me ask you what we have achieved by remaining calm and disciplined for so many years. We have to preserve the brand name called “IIT”. But, Rohit could be my son, your son. Is it not too heavy a price to pay for so-called IIT brand name, when the Ministry of HRD has already decided to dilute the brand by establishing about two dozens of IITs within a short span of time and huddled the students like cattle in rooms by increasing the intake before the infrastructure was in place?

5. We failed in our time as we could not sustain our tempo and were disorganized. Please go through the letter that the students have submitted to Chairman, BOG on the 27th March, 2009 and you will be amazed at the maturity of the tone and language. Students, please be assured that, you are much better than what we were 30 years ago. But, please focus on the final goal and I wish you all the best.

6. Teachers at IIT are deeply agitated for the way they are treated and feel alienated at all levels. Because of the lack of clear path towards professional advancement and absence of campus amenities such as school, college and hospital, IIT Kharagpur is lagging far behind in attracting the brightest and the best as the faculty. I am duty-bound, as the President of the Teachers Association to highlight these issues in the coming days and they will be done. For your records, I am appending the text of the memorandum that we submitted to Chairman, BOG (through acting Director, IIT) on the 27th March, 2009 as a reaction to the recent incident:



27 March 2009

Joint Memorandum submitted to the Honourable Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Kharagpur by Teachers, Employees and Officers

1. IIT community deeply mourns the sad demise of young Rohit Kumar prematurely. The incidents that took place on the 22nd of March 2009, were also unfortunate and needs to be avoided in future. The members of the IIT community feel that though it was triggered by the sad death of Rohit Kumar, but was in fact an expression of cumulative grievances. While we are pained by the undesirable behavior of the students, we urge upon all concerned to establish better rapport with the students and initiate creation of a congenial atmosphere through discussions with the students, taking their feelings in confidence and initiate measures to address their needs of better health-care and better living conditions in the halls, without further delay. The message that the students are a pivotal and integral part of the IIT community and that they will never be considered adversaries must be widely communicated.

2. Concrete steps to revamp the health care system, by trying all avenues including participation of private hospitals should be undertaken immediately. The planning must include the right medical professionals in the process. There is a need to document in no uncertain terms the limited capabilities of the B. C. Roy hospital and also the list of medical emergencies where the risk factor in offering proper health care to the community substantially shoots up. This knowledge must be available to each and every member of the community including the students. Immediate short-term measures such as round the clock availability of doctors, filling up all vacant positions in the hospital by competent and able persons, must be immediately addressed. The doctors of the B. C. Roy hospital should also be taken into confidence, to understand the problems they face in the current infrastructure.

3. It must be ensured that all further expansion proposals with respect to students’ intake must be kept in complete abeyance, till the proper infrastructure development and manpower deployment are actually put in place. The student facilities and amenities, such as reasonable accommodation, food, water supply and medical services should be looked into first. Till these aspects are taken care of and proper infrastructure required for further expansion in intake is put in place, the expansion trend should be stopped immediately to avoid a potential recurrence of the previous Sunday in an Institution which claims International standing . IIT must intimate the MHRD accordingly, and insist upon it to permit IIT Kharagpur to carry forward its hard earned legacy of quality and fair treatment.

Professor Kanchan Chowdhury (chowdhury.kanchan(at)gmail.com)
President, IITTA
President, (TEAK)
President, IITEU

 Responses to “Letter from Alumnus”
 Anon Says:

1. I am also a KGP alumunus and I am a part of the system working here. Kudos to Prof. Kanchan Choudhry for calling a spade a spade.

2. I urge that the students remain united and fight for their rights undaunted. Do not succumb to divisive forces which are now working very actively to create a divide amongst the students.

3.The system at IIT KGP vests power in the hands of a few. We have a single person holding mutiple important portfolios, like both Dean ship & Head ship, GATE chairman/ Transport incharge to name a few. Is there a dearth of people that a single man has to handle multiple important things? Such ‘important people’ are neither doing justice to their teaching or their administrative responsibilities. It should be a one man one portfolio with full accountability, whatever the portfolio. Before this incident how many students knew who was the Hospital committe chairman or the transport committee chairman?

4. Go ahead and have a sound legal cell (do not get the Adminstration’s (mis)advice) to advise on all matters relating to academics, health care, insurance and other important services in the campus.

Wishing the student community all the best in their endevaour. Remember, you are the main component of the system. None of us would have existed here but for you.

कोई भी मूल्य एवं संस्कृति तब तक जीवित नहीं रह सकती जब तक वह आचरण में नहीं है.

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