At a time when the real estate market is booming and affordable housing seems to be getting out of reach for the middle class; when the Slum Rehabilitation Authority is strapped in scams and corrupt officials, President APJ Abdul Kalam urged the 4000-odd alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to take up "missions which can touch Indian society".
"Create low cost water efficient, electricity efficient dwelling units with proper sanitation and drainage facilities for the needy in urban and rural areas. The cost of the two room dwelling unit should not exceed Rs 1 lakh," said Kalam who was in the city to inaugurate the three-day PanIIT 2006 Global Conference.
Through the IITian expertise of IT application in planning, design, project management and optimum use of quality manpower, Kalam added, "Also suggest strategies to reduce overall construction cost by 20 per cent."
With IIT alumni from across the globe converging at the Bandra Kurla Complex, issues on nation building with the theme of 'Inspire to Involve and Transform India' will be discussed over three days.
Stating that Pan IITians must prepare a plan of action for inculcating innovation and creativity among the engineering graduates in the country, Kalam pointed, "Members of Pan IIT can facilitate birth of small enterprises by providing ideas, funding and nurturing the enterprises that will enable the Indian youth to become employment generators instead of being employment seekers."
He added, "Pan IIT must take the initiative of creating the world knowledge platform by integrating the academic institutions, R&D institutions and the business enterprises."
The alumni were a happy lot. "An event of this scale is a necessity. Considering it has happened a bit late, nevertheless it is a welcome sign that IITians are getting together and working towards the development of the country," said Kris Gopalakrishnan.
Added Former VSNL Chief SK Gupta, "Indians generally do not share much entrepreneurship ideas. But it is heartening to see that under the umbrella of this kind, an earnest beginning has set off."
Meanwhile, with reference to the topic on the mission for the society, Kalam spoke about the seven friends he had spoken to, asking them what IIT brought to their minds. Interestingly, while a US professor of Indian origin and an Army General said it brought "nothing" to their minds, an IT friend said that the "direct benefits for the nation in terms of knowledge products and Intellectual property is rather minimal."
However, the professor said that the greatest challenge for the Pan IITians and the nation is to find a mechanism to identify those needles in the haystack — the hidden Ramanujan's and Einstein's.
Kalam also said that a senior government official from the science and education department spoke of IIT as an exclusive institution in a world, which should become more and more inclusive and converging.