Prof. Ajit K Chaturvedi, Director of IIT Roorkee, tells Education Post’s Tanay Kumar about his institute’s landmark Sakuntala Program, which aims to encourage more women to join research programs in engineering departments.
You have been associated with the IITs for a long time. What makes this chain of institutes such an important one?
Adherence to excellence and fairness gives them a unique standing in the society. IITs have established that credibility and strive to retain society’s expectations from them.
There is a notion that the best talents coming out of IITs leave India for lack of better opportunities here. Having mentored many scholars at IIT, what are your thoughts on the matter?
This could have been true way back in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. But over the past two decades, we are seeing more and more IITians staying back in India, either taking up a job or launching their own start-ups.
Of course, during the course of their careers, they do go abroad and spend a few years there. But the number of IITians permanently settling abroad due to the dearth of work opportunities in India is significantly lower than what it was previously.
And even if some IITians go abroad to settle there, it is still a good thing for India because it shows that we are able to contribute to the world at large and, in the process, make a name for India.
You have worked with projects related to networking and telecommunication. Tell us about the MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) project and its utility.
I work mainly in the physical layer of telecommunications, and MIMO is an important part of that physical layer. It came into existence about 30 years ago. It has led to higher data rates in the internet world.
How was your experience working with Indian government authorities?
Well, as long as all involved realize that everyone is bringing something important to the table, something unique for the partnership, there is better appreciation in terms of alignment. Every entity is different, and alone none of us can deliver any meaningful project for society.
A lot of impetus is being given to women’s empowerment in higher education. What is the concept of IIT’s Sakuntala Program?
IIT Roorkee launched the Sakuntala Program so that more women join the research programs in engineering departments. Women join research programs in IITs but mostly in science, bioscience, and humanities department.
We see only a few women joining the engineering departments.
We are hoping to change that with the Sakuntala Program.
In this scheme, any female candidate having a B.Tech./B.E./B.Arch./B.Des.A Degree from CFTIs with a minimum CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) score of 8.5 or higher on the lO-point scale will be eligible for direct admission into a Ph.D. programme. A major relaxation for the aspirants of higher education under the SAKUNTALA scheme is that the candidates do not need a GATE/CEED/ National Level examination score for applying to the Ph.D. program of the Institute.
It’s the need of the hour: research programs need to be compatible with the needs of the industry. How do institutions like IIT ensure that students are doing relevant research that is commercially viable?
We create partnerships so that we get more projects from the industries. We try to take up several projects in which the industry is interested. This way, we are able to improve industrial collaboration, and research projects have more relevance to the ground reality.
You have been recognized for your contribution to the development of communication systems in India. What exactly helped your steady progress?
I’ve been fortunate that I’ve gone to some very good educational institutions and had some really good teachers who inculcated a sense of purpose in my life. Moreover, it is always helpful when one is aware of his/her own abilities and limitations. You need to be sure of yourself and your path and follow it regardless of what your friends or relative think about it.