Young Engineers worried as Economy Slowdowns

THE UPSWING of the Indian economy is experiencing a slowdown and this trend might continue into the next financial year. The Indian economic boom is mainly due to the IT sector which has spearheaded it and created thousands jobs of every year. The stock markets worldwide are also down and companies from all the sectors have reported reduction in sales and profit margins.

The sensex indicates that there will be more industries that will struggle in the fourth quarter of the current financial year. But the telecom firms will beat this trend along with manufacturing companies such as BHEL and L&T.

Economy slowdownThe rising rupee, which has appreciated by 13 per cent over the past year against the US dollar, has made exports difficult, while a recession in the US market is threatening Indian software exporters who have their main clients in the US. The IT sector was always at a loss as the rupee gained in strength in the International market. The repercussion can now be felt with TCS asking its 500 employees to resign voluntarily. IT majors pass on 45 per cent of their profit margins as salary to their employees and with decrease in profit the annual increment has also gone down. The yearly increment has been reduced to seven to eight per cent against the usual 15 per cent. There will be less recruitment of freshers as well than in 2007. In 2007, the top five IT companies hired over 50,000 employees. The companies now will make use of the ‘bench’.

This trend has landed many fresh engineers in trouble. Final year engineering students who have been recruited in IT companies are worried these days. They are all asking whether their appointment letters will be cancelled. And when they will get their joining letters? Will there be any cut down in pay packages offered? The non-recruited ones will find it tough to get lucrative jobs they were hoping for earlier. Analysts say that the slowdown was expected and it is just a transition period. One need not be too worried as this recession in US may be over in a couple of years. The Indian economy has shown lots of resilience in the past and has many multifarious activities going on which provides stability against external influences. Patience is the key to this slowdown.

When Dreams turn Nightmares

When students go to the US, they do so for good education and a better lifestyle. But the recent murders of Indian students in US campuses reveal macabre ends to the dreams and ambitions of the students as well as their grief stricken families. Continue reading When Dreams turn Nightmares

The CAT Marking – Not so Simple!!!

So all those who thought they have belled the CAT successfully – Congratulations. A word of caution- don’t get complacent. Get a back up plan. And for all those who thought they have lost it. Relax results aren’t out yet!

Having said that, I wish to emphasize that this post is not at all a lecture from any coaching institute. It is based on some facts that most of us missed or overlooked.

Firstly, all those coaching institutes which you rely for your preparations are all crap. That is not to say that you must not join them, but a simple fact that what may work for you may not necessarily work for me.

Secondly, don’t go by the cut-offs they tell you as they are as wild guess as you and I can make. I estimate a score of 105 will get you a call from IIM A. My analysis is based on the fact that in CAT 2006 IIM A called candidates which had atleast 25% (and not percentile) in each section and 35% overall. Given the fact that CAT 2007 was tougher than CAT 2006 this score can even be lower.

Thirdly, don’t trust the answers the IMS, Career Launcher & Time etc. publish on their website. They are no one to provide solution or analysis to the paper. Their analysis is just as good or as bad as mine. This is evident from the fact that even the answers provided by these institues differ from organization to organization. Eg: The question “mistrust/distrust” in the verbal section of CAT 2007 has different answer in each of the sites of Time, IMS and Career Launcher.

123.JPGFourthly, and most importantly, if I am correct even though CAT 2006 had a couple of wrong questions, it was never officially accepted by the IIMs. Now on the face, it wouldn’t make much difference but as you can see from CAT scorecard of 2006 . The percentage marks for each section are given in decimals (upto two decimals)!!! Now, by CAT 2006 marking scheme, if 25 questions carry 4 marks each and 1 mark negative for each incorrect answer, the maximum you can score in each section is 100. There is no way you can score in decimals hence YOUR PERCENTAGE CANNOT HAVE A DECIMAL VALUE IN ANY SECTION but quite a lot of students got their sectional percentage in decimals.

Hence it is quite evident that CAT marking is beyond what is told to us. It has something which is beyond +4 and -1 rule. Something of which we are not even aware. And this hidden and untold marking rule can have a significant effect on your score!!!

Faculty Crisis in top Tech Institutes of India

RECENTLY OUR college has appointed a new professor, who had retired from IIT. He has amazing personality and is very friendly. Recently he raised a question to us – “How many of you would be willing to come back as a teacher to this place?” Not one hand went up. There was silence in a class. Then in a conversation we came to know that India’s premier institute is facing an acute shortage of quality faculty. The situation is really grim.

Teachers in IITA growing crisis in academic recruitment at the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) is threatening to disrupt teaching and research, and could put international collaborations in jeopardy. Teaching as a career option is obviously low on the list of the graduates these days. No wonder that even reputed institutions like IITs, are finding it difficult to hire good faculty.

Latest survey says that the nation’s seven IITs need about 900 additional faculty members before the next academic session to counteract the shortfall.

“A report released last year by a parliamentary committee outlined the magnitude of the crisis. At 16 universities under federal control – considered the country’s elite – as many as 1,988 faculty positions lay vacant as of March 2005.” The committee said the problem is probably even worse at state universities and that “drastic steps need to be taken so that students are not deprived of proper guidance.”(The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 12 issue)

A string of measures – including hiring foreigners, raising the retirement age to 70, and incentive packages for new recruits – have been suggested by IIT directors. But doubts remain about whether this will save the crown jewel of India’s education system from losing its shine. I did some research and following figures came out.

In a scenario where leading technical colleges across the United States and Britain offer 1:6 faculty student ratio, most IITs just manage to scrape up a 1:12 ratio while struggling to stem attrition and quality faculty. In some of IITs, it is hard to maintain a ratio of 1:14. The reasons for the same are not hard to find.

With a monthly salary that fetches a professor Rs 18,400 – 22,400, an associate professor Rs 15,000 – 20,400 and an assistant professor Rs 12,000 -18,000 with a measly Rs 500 increment for professors in alternate years, it is hardly a wonder that these portals of education should suffer from a lack of quality teachers.

Teachers’ salary mainly in the United States and European Union is at least 20 – 25 times more than that of IIT teachers annually. An average IIT graduate gets much better salary in job market than the one fetched by IIT director. Money is probably the only factor that forces a faculty to look for greener pastures abroad. These figures appeared in one of the monthly magazines few months back.

But what is more alarming is this statistic: by 2011 – just four years from now – that shortage of teachers will swell to 2,31,000 in Indian educational system. Almost 90 per cent of this shortage is in areas that have driven India’s recent growth: computer science, information technology and electrical engineering, according to the study, which was written by a committee chaired by P Rama Rao, a professor in Hyderabad, who has been warning about this impending crisis.

Things will get worst if there is implementation of the 27 per cent OBC (Other Backward Classes) reservation, as even the youngest IIT – IIT Roorkee – is reeling under a current shortage of 226 faculty positions. IITs are trying innovative ways to attract young and talented NRIs (Non Resident Indians) serving in foreign universities to work with them. If this is the scenario in India’s best technical institutes then the condition in others is easy to imagine.

A serious introspection and reform is required, else we may slip in world rankings. It is a matter of anguish that teaching, which is one of the most critical professions for the socio-economic development of a society, has become one of the last career options.

Recently, at a known technical institution, several IT and management professionals applied for faculty positions, in search of a less stressful job. If this is an indication of an emerging trend, there is a reason to cheer. It is imperative that competent minds are drawn to this profession as they have a direct influence on so many youngsters. By hiking UGC (University Grants Commission) pay scales, the government can take the first step in increasing the respectability of this profession.

Ramadoss Vs Medicos. The Battle goes on!!

RamdossFEW MONTHS back the Medical Council of India (MCI) had forwarded a proposal of six-months extension in the medical curriculum but the government came with a one-year plan. This entire one-year will be dedicated to rural service and students need to spend at least six months in any rural areas at their final segment of study. As per the new curriculum, a student has to spend almost seven years for a MBBS degree compared to the five and half year at present.
Being an engineering student, this topic is of no concern to me but I support these students who are being victimised by this unjustified move of the health minister. The students, doctors and many others have spoken against the move and as a result the protests and strikes are going on in many colleges across the country, which are hampering the health services. I am not a supporter of strikes as a doctor has a huge social responsibility on her/his but sometime you just don’t find any other way to be heard.

I feel that the one-year internship in rural area should be included in existing tenure only. If the medical course is extended, the students will be 32 to 33 years old by the time they finish their course. On the other hand, the other graduates such as engineers would be earning in lakhs per year by that age. I met few of resident doctors here in Mumbai.

“First, I want to clarify that we are not against rural service. It would be our pleasure to do rural service but our period of study should not be extended. It should be within five and a half years and if you want to extend that study give us permanent jobs with permanent salaries,” said Dr Ravikant Singh of KEM (King Edward Memorial) hospital.

At Azad Maidan on 26thThis rule of rural service does not apply for private colleges. Why? Isn’t the rule applicable for all? Why only government medical students should suffer? Private college students would finish their course well before a government medical student. Isn’t this discrimination?
This scheme will increase the duration of the MBBS course from five and a half years to six and a half years. This will place a huge financial burden on students hailing from lower middle class backgrounds. Most of them avail loans and scholarships for their education. This can wreak havoc in their plans of repaying their loans. Many fear that MBBS will not be a favoured course for women in the future if things go the way the minister wants them to.

At Azad Maidan on 26thIf this Bill is passed then most of the students will surely hesitate before joining the course, because in the year 2007 around 150 odd students switched to engineering after getting medicine in Tamil Nadu. Many other private and government medical colleges from Karnataka and other colleges from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have started their protests from the 27th of this month, many of which are indefinite strikes.
The health minister of this UPA government has done everything wrong as far as medicos are concerned. There was quota agitation last year, which was initiated in AIIMS and spread like wildfire across the country. The students from other fraternities also joined the cause and it became a bane for government after Supreme Court put the stay on the controversial bill. Ever since Dr Venugopal, director of AIIMS has been at loggerheads with the health minister.

The health minister tabled another Bill in Parliament, which forces any person, who is holding the post of AIIMS chairman to retire when he reaches the age of 65. This is a deliberate attempt to show Dr Venugopal the door and health minister has achieved the objective. The public tug-off-war between Ramadoss and Dr Venugopal saw several rounds of litigation in Delhi High Court. However, the move to sack Dr Venugopal is not the only black mark against the young Tamil Nadu minister, son of PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi) chief Dr S Ramadoss. Dr Ramadoss junior has been in the eye of a storm for urging film and sports stars to not endorse soft drinks; for stuffing AIIMS with his cronies; for publicly contesting United Nations figures on AIDS in India; Dr Ramadoss had no time to sign degrees and hence student’s got their certificates of merit late and that too after intervention of court; and for advocating statutory warnings for smoking on screen.
In spite of being the first medical doctor to head the health ministry, has Dr Anbumani Ramadoss become an embarrassment to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? Should he go? The move of removal of Dr Venugopal, one of the best doctors in the country is an autocratic decision taken by a democratic government. The health minister has made AIIMS a playground to play the dirtiest of politics.

Is Banning Students’ elections justified?

Students in a rally

Mayawati has announced a ban on students’ polls in UP. The youth politics has gone haywire but the ban is not justified. The active presence of constructive politics and true democracy can effectively defend the anarchy and disharmony in campuses.

SUPREME COURT recently gave the judgment that the country needs good students and not leaders engaged in ‘goondagiri’ and ‘dadagiri’ in colleges and universities. As if taking cue from this observation, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister announced a ban on students’ elections in the state. Since independence this is the fourth time that such curbs have been imposed in the state. The ban, says the CM, will improve law and order on campus and regularise academic sessions. In December 2006, we saw unrest in Lucknow University over the recommendations of Lyngdoh committee on student polls.

I have been to Lucknow University (LU) myself and there is no doubt that the campus election has become a playfield for small time ‘netas’ who masquerade as students. There is lot of tension whenever a poll is round the corner and major sufferers are common students. The problem is that politicians meddle a lot in student elections of LU. The students go and harass business establishments to extract money before elections. Aspiring candidates have at least four gunmen and new cars for the campaign. They are not afraid because of political backing. This criminalisation of youth politics is very disturbing.

However, a ban is unjustified. Political activities in the Universities are natural because the university is a community of thinking people; of those who are exploring the frontiers of knowledge and of those who criticise and evaluate every idea before accepting it. The active presence of constructive politics and true democracy can effectively defend the anarchy and disharmony in campuses. There are also evidences of harassment faced by students in the “non-political campuses.” The college authorities in the name of campus decorum crush even the genuine protests of the students against misdeeds and exploitation. In private campuses the students’ council is a nominated one and which is mere puppet in hands of management.

Instead of such blanket ban, state government should ensure they implement recommendations of Lyngdoh Committee. This lackadaisical approach on the part of national parties and poll authorities will only delay the process of political socialisation and undermine the spirit of healthy competition among many who may become India’s future leaders.

Are our Engineers employable??

Engineers’ Day is celebrated every year throughout the country on September 15th to commemorate the birthday of Bharat Ratna Sir M Visvesvaraya. Let us see where engineering education of our country stands after 60 years of independence.

A serious problem is staring India’s higher education in the face. Its about the misalignment between education and employment.

We proudly claim to have the largest pool of engineers. This is the resource which forms the backbone of India’s rapidly growing IT industry along with the other sectors. But, India’s HUGE pool of young graduates actually have fewer number of suitable candidates employable by MNCs and their off shoring arms. Infact, only 25% of India’s engineering graduates are considered employable material by MNCs. The quality of education in India varies widely and while IITs and NITs are world class,other engineering colleges are nowhere close. Many factors contribute to malaise : outdated curriculum, obsolete equipments, teachers who don’t update their knowledge base, management that lacks commitment to academic excellence, rote learning, exam oriented teaching, lack of activity-based learning through team effort and lack of practical training.

The Most Valuable Employee

The biggest failure of our University system is that students are not taught “soft skills”- the competence to discuss, analyse, innovate and communicate.The findings of the committee set up by University of Mumbai found 42 affiliated engineering colleges falling way below the standards set by AICTE, and it even included reasonably well known colleges such as Rizvi College and KJ Somaiya, Sion.

Below are the few measures from a student’s perspective which can make him a better graduate:-

  1. Opportunities for students to do short term or certificate courses along with the degree courses. These courses should be linked to areas in which employment opportunities are opening.
  2. A common curriculum and syllabus throughout the country along the guidelines of the IITs.
  3. Emphasis on practical training rather than theoretical.
  4. A semester dedicated for Industrial training and honing technical skills under the guidance of the experts, which is absent in many major universities & colleges.
  5. Since the university system is not making the graduates compatible, many companies have to spend substantial resources to train fresh recruits. An “Industry based” syllabi is the need of the hour to produce “Industry ready Engineers”.

The government currently spends only 0.1% of GDP on technical Education, which is a very miniscule number.

In India most of the top Engineering graduates emigrate.

This apart, only 4% of India’s graduates are engineers whereas this figure is as high as 20% in Germany and 30% in China. Therefore, as recommended by Moily Oversight Committee, new IITs and NITs should be setup every year all over the country, in order to counter the shortage of quality engineers.

NASSCOM estimates shortfall of about 5 lakh employable graduates by 2010. Hence, it is important to ensure steady supply of young graduates so that India does not lose the advantage of having a large population.

India has a long way to go, both in terms of quality and quantity in higher education. An urgent reform in education has become a necessity. Since our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh himself has once served as the chairman of UGC, we hope he will push for the reforms in the education system which will propel us in achieving the status of a developed nation.