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Paribartan poser & Singur slap

From aam aadmi champion to rival chief minister, Bengal potshots in fashion at PanIIT Global Conference 2012

Parivartan vs Paribartan

What does the man advocating aam aadmi-driven “parivartan” make of the Ma Maati Manush-powered “paribartan” in Bengal?

“It is for the people of Bengal to decide whether there has been any real paribartan or a mere change in the composition of power,” said Arvind Kejriwal, on the sidelines of a session at the PanIIT Global Conference 2012, partnered by The Telegraph, at the Science City auditorium.

The Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur alumnus gave voice on Saturday to a growing concern in Bengal given the 18-month-old Mamata Banerjee regime’s style of governance.

Politics in India will see a parivartan in the true sense of the term after 2014 if the Aam Aadmi party is given adequate support, pointed out the IITian-turned-activist-turned-politician, who drew a full-house.

“The Congress hails Rahul Gandhi, the BJP raises its voice for (L.K.) Advani, but our party bats for the aam aadmi, who is increasingly becoming marginalised in the politics catering only to the aspirations of the VIP,” said Kejriwal.

But why was he jumping into the political circus, then? Kejriwal said he had pleaded with both the Congress and the BJP to weed out corruption with a proper Jan Lokpal Bill, but to no effect, prompting his entry into a system that required urgent purging.

When Kejriwal asked the PanIIT gathering from the dais if he was wrong in demanding the confiscation of property in possession of “dishonest politicians”, the thunderous “NO” proved yet again that corruption and politics strike quite a chord at any gathering these days.

“Politics has now become a tool to realise one’s greed. Good people are shunned in politics and only the entry of good people can ensure a cleaner political system. We want to involve good people through our movement,” said the IITian who is gearing up to play the role of “a constructive opposition” in the political system.

Given the present state of affairs in Bengal (read, zero- tolerance for criticism), he would possibly remain jobless in that role.

Bengal’s loss...

Ta-ta Singur, welcome to Chhattisgarh!

Raman Singh, chief minister of the state formed in 2000, used the PanIIT platform to extend an invitation to Ravi Kant, IIT alumnus and vice-chairman of Tata Motors, to set up an automobile factory there.

Singh hard-sold his state in true corporate style: a PowerPoint presentation highlighting industrial development to woo IITians to set up factories in Chhattisgarh.

“I have asked him to visit our state and explore the opportunities. He has agreed to that,” said Singh, who made it a point to lunch with Kant.

West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra — whose leader had famously driven out Tata Motors from Singur in 2008 — had left soon after the pre-lunch session.

Earlier, on the sidelines of the plenary session, Singh had said that getting land “wouldn’t be a problem” for any industrial project in his state.

Amit Mitra’s counterpoint, “Come and invest in Bengal, land is not an issue”, sounded so lame.

Labs to industry

Former and present directors of three IITs — Kharagpur, Madras and Bombay — stressed the need to enhance industry-academic partnership in the country, during a session on technical education and R&D, increasing collaboration between industry and IITs, on Saturday.

Ravi Kant urged the institutes to focus on R&D while carrying out academic activities so that the industry could also benefit from their innovative work.

“It is unfortunate that despite boasting of so many IITs we still have to rely on R&D being carried out in labs of the West. This trend ought to change,” said an industrialist in the audience.

The director of IIT Bombay Devang V. Khakhar said the situation is gradually improving with industry coming forward to fund several research projects. “We will soon see wider benefits of such fruitful interactions,” he said.

Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director of IIT Madras, also referred to various R&D projects being undertaken in collaboration with local industries, like in electronics.

Mr Aadhaar

If how technology can transform India is the focal point, then the man in the middle must be Nandan Nilekani.

The Unique Identification Authority of India chairman spoke extensively on Aadhaar, the unique ID initiative.

The session chaired by Aniruddha Roy, chairman of the conference’s programme committee, saw Nilekani lay out the different components of the unique ID system, which he dubbed “the world's largest database” based on biometrics like iris scan and fingerprinting technology.

“The Aadhaar authentication ID gives people access to services, saves government expenditure by plugging leakage and misuse of services and prevents corruption and harassment,” said Nilekani, an IIT Bombay alumnus.

There have been 270 million enrolments for the unique ID, of which 220 million have been generated. “We expect enrolment to go up to 600 million by 2014,” he said.

IITians as leaders

IITians pitted against IITians to debate the leadership capabilities of IITians made for an entertaining but inconclusive session on the first day of the PanIIT Global Conference.

IITians Prithwis Mukerjee, professor, IIT Kharagpur, Charanpreet Singh, associate dean, Praxis Business School, Sourya Dey, student, IIT Kharagpur, Yamini, student, IIT Bhubaneswar, proposed the motion — “IITians make poor leaders” — while Arjun Malhotra, chairman and CEO TechSpan, USA, Debdas Sen, executive director and partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers India, Saili Rani, student, IIT Roorkee, and Kaustav Kharey, student, IIT Kharagpur opposed it.

Mukerjee argued that the only thing common to all IITians was “cracking an exam on a particular day” and believing that one can pick great leaders based on one exam was naive.

Malhotra ticked leadership boxes matching them with IITian boxes — intelligence, hard work, ambition, high frustration tolerance, ambiguity tolerance, decision making, people skills — to argue that they are capable of being leaders. “Some say we don’t tolerate fools very well. Well that’s the way we are,” he concluded, to loud applause from Team IIT of course!

Moderator Rudrangshu Mukherjee of The Telegraph found it irrelevant to put the motion to vote saying that it was defeated when it was first formulated!