Monday, February 25, 2013

Prof. P. V. Indiresan is no more

Prof P.V. Indiresan, former Director of IIT Madras, Padma Bhushan in 2000, member on countless GOI committees and a frequent writer on several academic issues, is no more.

Strong academic reforms and a focus on 'research culture' at IIT Madras is instilled during his tenure as the Director. That is the perception I gather from some of my senior colleagues.

After the period of all-out praise -- of, by and for academics -- that should now follow, a true appraisal of his deeds should emerge.


  1. Abi said...

    I know quite a few people who think very highly of Prof. Indiresan's tenure as the director of IIT-M.

    I have never met the man, and my views are based entirely on his newspaper columns (especially those in the Business Line).

    Some impressions:

    1. For someone who rose to prominence through the public sector -- the IIT system -- Prof. Indiressan spent much of his post-IIT life (and I'm guessing much of his IIT life as well) trashing the public sector and bad-mouthing the government. I find this quite intriguing!

    2. Prof. Indiresan's staunch anti-reservation stand was a big part of his public intellectual persona. His passion was so strong that he didn't deem it beneath him to pass along someone else's crude, casteist jibe in one of his Business Line columns.

    3. And, of course, he famously undermined his own anti-reservation credibility by advocating reservation for rich kids in the IITs.

  2. Anonymous said...

    On the other hand, Prof Inderesan does not seem to have been one of those professional reservation-bashers who have no better alternatives to propose. As the Hindu article mentions:

    "At the meeting where the chief guest was President Zail Singh, quietly but firmly the little professor told the President and the rest of India that the proper way to get SC and ST students into higher education was not through quotas but through quality education from primary school itself."


    "Quietly and using his own funds, he organised teaching camps for SC and ST Class XII students at the IIT campus, to prepare them for the IIT entrance exam."

    To me this looks like someone who had a much better solution to addressing caste inequality than the current politically motivated schemes of having reservations only at the college level. More importantly, it seems that Prof Indiresan was also willing to put his money where his mouth was. Unless, as Prof Indiresan argued and practiced, our society starts to address inequality at the root---at the level of primary and secondary schools rather than colleges---reservations at the college level will just remain an ineffectual eyewash. In my opinion, the current Right to Education bill, which is more in tune with Prof Indiresan's ideas, has a far better potential at eradicating caste inequalities than any amount of reservation at the college level.