Archive for September, 2009

The IIT Affiliate Program — Addressing the IIT Challenge

The Indian Institutes of Technology are the premier educational institutions in India, respected worldwide for the quality of the graduates they have produced. Over the last few years, although the hype surrounding the IIT system has increased, its attractiveness for the young generation as a career option has steadily declined. More and more qualified young people prefer to take up jobs in industry than to become a faculty member at one of the IITs.  One of the reasons behind this scenario is the failure of the IITs to pay the salaries comparable to those offered by the industry.  The fact that a fresh IIT graduate is hired by the Indian industry at a salary more than that of a full IIT professor provides no comfort to either existing or prospective faculty members. The situation has become so bad that some of the IIT faculty members have come out openly to protest against this disparity.

The Indian Government has announced plans to open many more IITs, but is silent about its ability to attract good faculty to these institutions. In fact, more than 30% of the current faculty positions in the IITs are vacant because of inability to hire qualified faculty without compromising the quality.  If the quality of IIT faculty is compromised in order to fill the gap, then no only the massive public investments make will be wasted, but also the brand image of IITs will be severely impacted.

For various reasons, it is not realistic to expect Government to pay IIT faculty salaries comparable to those in the Industry.  The following slides describe an idea that can not only make up for the differential in salary and make IITs more attractive career option, but also provide IIT education to many more aspiring students without much public investments.

Please provide your comments on the idea. If you like the idea, help refine it and help in convincing the decision makers. Even if you don’t like with the idea, please provide your constructive criticism so that it may be improved.

Decadent Governance

As an Information Commissioner i come across situations which raise some fundamental doubts about our Governance. Information comes into Public domain, but the Governance structure appears to be unable or unwilling to do anything even about blatant illegalities. Since i have a conviction that Citizens have the power and authority to bring corrections in our flawed governance, i want to share the details of one such instance.

To begin at the beginning. A citizen asked about proof of whether a mobile tower which had been erected on top of an existing building had been given permission as required under the law by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The information was revealed after some coaxing that no permission had been given. The PIO promised to take action. But inspite of a complaint to the Municipal Commissioner and the Police Commissioner no action has been taken to bring down the tower which could pose a hazard, endangering the lives of people staying in those buildings. The Additional Commissioner (Eng.) has revealed the fact that out of 4532 mobile towers in Delhi only 2015 have the requisite permissions and 2517 are without MCD permission! Thus large corporates are putting up the mobile towers on the terraces of existing buildings without legal permission – an example of Corporate Social Irresponsibility?

The Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police undertook an inquiry and came to the conclusion that the police cannot take any action since all ‘unauthorised development’ in Delhi has been given official protection by the Delhi Government by Section 3(2) and (3) of the NCT of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2009. By this provision all unauthorized developments like mobile towers are given protection from any punitive action during the year 2009. I had heard about mafia protection for illegal activities, but am surprised that protection is offered by the Government under the garb of a law!

To install a mobile tower there is a requirement of obtaining a stability certificate to ensure that the building is not likely to be endangered by putting additional load on top. MCD has specified that the stability certificate will be accepted only if it is issued by one of the five agencies approved by it. One of the approved agencies is IIT Delhi. During the course of a hearing at the Commission it has been recorded, “The Appellant had pointed out there are two certificates issued for the same address. The PIO has stated that the faculty members in IIT issues a stability certificate based on the drawings provided by the client in which the address is mentioned. The PIO also states that no records are maintained by the IIT of the drawings. The Commission has taken a look at the stability certificate provided by IIT which states, ‘This building is safe and capable of resisting the forces and moments which may be increased or altered by reason of the additional structures for 15 meter three legged tower with GSM and MW antenna….’. The wording of this certificate appears to indicate that it is certifying the stability as existing whereas the PIO described that it is a certificate based on a drawing with an address which is not verified at all. Given the fact that the IIT does not maintain any copy of the drawing with itself, this process appears to have great potential for misuse. Statutory bodies which permit these towers and IIT would do well to take a look at these practices which may have the potential of endangering safety. Alternately people may discover that there is no need for such certification in which case it would be done away with.” I am distressed that any engineer can issue a safety certificate for an existing building without even looking at it! If some of the buildings collapse, an Enquiry Commission will get a few years work at Public expense.

To me the foregoing gives an indication of some fundamental reasons for the steady decline in the rule of law and decadent Governance. The key elements are:

  • Major Corporates are flouting the laws by operating without the permissions in over 50% cases.
  • MCD will take no action against them.
  • The Delhi Government will offer protection to unauthorized activity by major Corporates by law.
  • A Premier academic institution issues safety certificates in a manner which is completely flawed.

This is a potent combination whereby conscious collusion and inactive passivity leads to a society where the rule of law is effectively subverted by the powerful, leading to a decadent governance structure. Institutions and Citizens need to find ways to correct this. This same set of conditions are seen in many situations across the country.

“No Compromise on Integrity” Club

TiECon Delhi had its curtain raiser yesterday with dataquest awards. Azim Premji received the lifetime achievement award, and emphasized on organizational values as a strong foundation to build successful businesses. Rajeev karwal from Milagrow had an interesting suggestion – to bring businesses that are unwilling to compromise on integrity together under one umbrella (zero compromise) and have certificates issued to them which can be displayed. The desired affect beyond solidarity – if someone walks up and sees that certificate, they should immediately understand that this shop is closed for bribes.

Interesting thought – any suggestions on what can make this work?

ADB Developmental Goals

Mint has interesting data from ADB on the developmental goals and how India stacks up. Despite the growth that countries like India have witnessed over past many years, we still trail on basic amenities for all.

Delhi Gurgaon Expressway: Scant regard for human life

The Delhi Gurgaon expressway between Delhi and Gurgaon has been designed ignoring the local needs of people living on both sides of the highway. The areas on both sides of the NH8 in Gurgaon have long been inhabited and people have crossed the highway for local needs like: children going to school, workers going to factories for decades before the expressway came up.

Villages on both sides of the highway and industrial areas like Udyog Vihar etc have existed long before the expressway was conceptualised. In spite of this fact, the design of the expressway has ignored the local needs of the people on both sides of the highway. As a result of this ignorance or rather indifference, subways, foot overbridges or pedestrian crossings were not conceptualised. Or even if they were planned or constructed, they were mis-conceptualized. Two footbridges has been set up near Rao Tula Ram crossing and one near Delhi Gurgaon border. Ironically there are hardly any habitations on both side around these stretches. As a result, these FOBs are hardly used. Due to this negligence, more than 100 deaths have resulted on the expressway, with larger proportion being that of pedestrians. This includes death of school girl who was crossing the NH8 to attend the government school in her village.

It is believed that it is the basic human right to go to work and earn a living. By the present design of the highway, locals have to risk their lives everyday even to attend office or school. While the expressway has been a boon to motorists, it has been a bane for “equally human” pedestrians. It is shocking to see authorities putting iron grill barricades on the central verge of the highway to prevent people from crossing. Are pedestrians expected to walk upto a ‘U-turn’ 2 km ahead to reach the other side of the road? It is plain inhuman to expect a daily worker to walk such a long distance in scorching sun. No wonder, a regular pedestrian tries to find a shortcut by crossing the highway mid way which has resulted in numerous accidents. Even if such barricades must be put, it should be only done after providing sufficient FOBs/sub ways.

What I am aiming at is the fact the it is not entirely the responsibility of DS Constructions to ensure smooth and safe traffic. If the basic design of the highway hasn’t taken into account the local needs of people living the near it, then what is a private developer expected to do. If the seed is wrongly sowed, how can one expect the tree to stand strong and upright. RITES, which is most likely the design consultant of the project, could not even see such a basic need of providing pedestrian crossing facilities, considering the fact the highway cuts a large city like Gurgaon into two parts. Were they simply sleeping while designing the highway and just did a copy-paste job of making the Detailed Project Report. Did they really conduct the socio-economic impact assessment of this project of the people living around the area? RITES and NHAI are as much accountable for this mess as private contractor.

It is urged that foot overbrides or subways be constructed on urgent basis no matter at what costs within strict timelines and same be monitored regularly by a judicial body. If required RITES/NHAI have to foot the entire bill even if it runs into tens or hundreds of crores of making pedestrian facilities (considering land is costly in Delhi/Gurgaon). Although two FOBs have come up, they are plainly inadequate. Through your esteemed blog, I request you to take up the issue in public and highlight the requirement of not 4 but may be 10 FOBs to ensure convenient cross over for pedestrians and smooth traffic for motorists. We need to get the DPR of this expressway even if it means going through RTI route to point out the flaws in design which defy even basic engineering and socio-economic principles. I am sure there are other ill-designed projects in India, mainly because of lack of capacity more importantly willingness of government planning bodies to ensure designs suited to local needs.

Although early to say, Bandra-Worli sea link may be the next project which needs a closer look. The initial news about jams on the sea-link do give a bad impression though!