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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 25 Sep 2012
IIT first batch left out of celebrations

They are a batch which witnessed technological history being made 60 years ago. And they saw India’s premier engineering institute emerge under the guidance of stalwarts like Prof JC Ghosh and Prof Keshav Murthy from their lecture theatres. Even as their alma mater is about to observe its 60th anniversary, they feel slighted and ignored.

IIT first batch left out of celebrations

About a dozen surviving members of IIT Kharagpur’s first batch who walked into its hallowed turf in 1951 have not been invited for the diamond jubilee celebrations on August 21, which will be attended by the prime minister. Deeply hurt at the treatment meted out to them, the septuagenarians have written to IIT director Damodar Acharya, reminding him of his promise to involve them in the event and that ignoring the first batch students will be an injustice to the historic institution.

An email to the director has elicited no response. When the alumni called Acharya last month, he allegedly refused to speak to them. It is extremely disheartening and humiliating for us. The IIT system started with us and developed into the leading technological education provider of the country. We are the only group which was there when it all began. It pains to know that none at IIT Kharagpur wants us to share those early experiences. Or, that despite being witness to the institutes birth and its first students, we are not considered important enough to take part in its diamond jubilee celebrations, said Mihir Biswas, a member of the first batch of mechanical engineering. About 10 of them have been meeting at a restaurant in Ballygunge every Sunday morning for the last 50 years. None of their teachers are alive.

Biswas, who has written to the director on behalf of his batchmates, pointed out that the group had been similarly ignored during IIT Kharagpurs golden jubilee in 2001. We had virtually gate crashed on that occasion. The authorities didn’t seem too pleased about it but later organized a pioneer’s meet for us. It was, however, done as an afterthought and was not a spontaneous move, said Biswas.

Last year, the alumni met Acharya and offered to help organize the diamond jubilee meet. We told him that we would be honoured to play a part and could even chalk out an event plan. The director readily agreed and told us that he would get in touch in due course. Months passed but nothing happened till we came across this announcement on the IIT website. It had the schedule for the celebrations and left us heart broken. Later, we came to know that other batches have been invited for the programme, including some alumni from abroad, but we were left out yet again. We had really expected an invitation this time, added Biswas.

His batch mate Bhimchandra Mandal, who topped the first batch and was awarded the first Presidents gold medal, recalled how Jawaharlal Nehru an eager patron of IIT had taken a personal interest in having him sent abroad for further studies. Since I had topped, he wanted me to go to Germany for a master’s degree. Eventually, the Germany stint didn’t materialize but he took the initiative to send me to USA. We had teachers like Dr. Seth, Prof Kraus and Keshav Murthy at IIT who were legends. Teaching was a mission for them and for us they were all father figures. It’s sad that all that don’t seem to count any more, said Mandal, a former director of Mecon. The Kharagpur campus, the first IITians recalled, was a vast, open space with a couple of buildings. There was just one hostel building the Patel Hall and all 210 students were huddled in it. We learnt and grew up together. The bond still exists and IIT remains our home. We feel insulted by this exclusion, said 78-year-old Jnanomoy Majumdar, a civil engineer who served as a director of NPCC Ltd. The feeling is shared by his batch mates Arun Kumar Ray, Pabitra De Sarkar and Tarun Sen.

Efforts to contact IIT director Damodar Acharya failed. When ToI called his office, officials said Acharya will not be not taking unscheduled calls till the event on August 21. Dean of alumni affairs Amit Patra, however, denied that former students have been invited for the meet. We are just holding the convocation on August 21 and kicking off the diamond jubilee celebrations on that day. Alumni meet will be held in January for which invitations are going to be sent to all former students, including those of the first batch, said Patra. He added that members of the 1951 batch were welcome to attend the convocation. Unfortunately, we shall not be able to accommodate them at our guest houses which are going to be packed. But we shall arrange seats for them at the hall and they can also join the convocation lunch, provided they let us know in advance. We are not inviting the alumni, said Patra.

The group is still expecting a call. Its unfair, said the alumni, to club them with the rest of the former students. They are a part of the IITs history which warranted an invitation, they felt. If it doesn’t come through, the elderly gentlemen might just walk into the campus on August 21, doing an encore of 2001. We risk being stopped at the gates for security is going to be tight. It would be humiliating if we are made to return, but we are willing to risk the embarrassment since this could be our last chance to take part in an IIT event, said Biswas.

Courtesy: Times of India


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