“Be sensitive thermometers if not thermostats”

July 31, 2010 12:00 am | Updated 04:27 am IST - CHENNAI:

Gopalkrishna Gandhi's clarion call to graduands of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi wished the graduands of Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) “not the excitement of playing God but the contentment of being instruments for fostering a humane society on a planet that is groaning under our weight and the weight of our excesses.”

In his address on the 47th convocation day of the institute, Mr. Gandhi said he would refrain from “truisms and homilies” such as “think big” and “to dare” and “to care.”

Referring instead to the “bite of competition” and the “sting of envious rivalries,” he said he would offer “brief reflections” on what the graduands would encounter in the “wider world.”

Power and money, cleverness and scheming, he said, would succeed, where reason and modesty and honesty plodded along. But, it was important to maintain a sense of proportion, of “ alavu” as it is called in Tamil.

Money did not know the difference between what is “proportionate and sufficient unto the purpose,” and its creations could be as often grotesque as they were beautiful. In the eagerness to tame nature, man was losing the discrimination between use, overuse and abuse, he said.

While there would be pressure on the graduands to “innovate and replace,” and to play Brahma and Shiva [the Gods of creation and destruction], he asked them to be “sensitive thermometers” if not “thermostats.”

Conservation, the third aspect of the Hindu trinity represented by Vishnu, the preserver, was as important, he said, calling for “maintenance education” not just as a methodology but as “a culture” and as “an ethic.”

Three tasks

He pointed to three tasks that could bring together the acts of creation, conservation and destruction, combined with the “technological inventiveness” for social development.

The first was reducing the cost of installations for solar energisation to provide a constant and plentiful source of energy.

The second was the providing of technologies for desalination of brackish and sea water, especially using solar technology. The third was the challenge of finding a use for plastic waste to convert it non-toxically into something of use, Mr. Gandhi said.

Earlier, R. Chidambaram, chairman, Board of Governors, said IIT-Madras was a “happening place,” with the development of India's first University-based Research Park. He said the institute was leading research and development in various frontier areas.

M.S. Ananth, Director, IIT-M, presented the annual report, and referred to achievements of the institute in the previous year.

In all, 1276 students received 1,462 degrees [186 dual degrees]. Swarun Kumar Suresh Kumar of the Computer Science and Engineering department won the President of India Prize and Chinmoy Venkatesh Mandayam Nayaka of the Electrical Engineering Department won the Governor's Prize.

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