Sunday, June 28, 2009

Repeal Section 377

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is very controversial: it states that unnatural sexual intercourse is banned within Indian territory. Under this section, 'unnatural' means anything that cannot produce children. Thus, homosexuality is banned in India under this.

The time has come to repeal Section 377. This law is old and outdated: it was created by the British and we seem to have accepted whatever our colonial masters gave us. Why, even the British do not criminalise homosexuality anymore. The previous Government saw a war between the Home Ministry and the Health Ministry over the issue. While the latter said that by legalising homosexuality, it will held de-stigmatize a considerable section of society and encourage them to come out and get themselves tested for HIV/AIDS and other STDs, which are common among homosexuals. However, the former opined that homosexuality is a 'law and order problem,' 'can lead to riots' and, most amazingly, quoted the Bible in denouncing homosexuality! The Delhi High Court, which was taking up a PIL on the issue, summarily dismissed the Home Ministry's remarks as they lacked any scientific proof and were based on religion, which the Constitution does not recognise in a court of law. Instead, it favoured the Health Ministry's version since it was backed by WHO data.

Now, with the worst Home Minister in history (Shivraj Patil) gone and a better administration in place, the time has come to make amends. Homosexuality is NOT a disease, it is NOT 'curable.' It represents diversity of mankind, and diversity is something we Indians pride ourselves on. Just as a person may be right-handed or left-handed, they may also be heterosexual or homosexual. It is a matter of chance, it is not some disease that can be propagated. Homosexuals do not go around kissing on the streets: they are Indian too and they also know that in India, kissing anybody on the streets is looked down upon. They have not broken any more laws than you and I have. They pay taxes and they work to make a living. It's just that they love somebody of their own sex. Is that wrong? How can we denounce what is natural? Calling homosexuals criminals is like Hitler denouncing Jews: it is an unnatural, unjustified hatred against a particular group of people.

Some would favour a status quo: don't change anything, since homosexuals are not paraded on the roads and hanged. So far, there has never been a major case in court in which a homosexual has been tried for being himself/herself. However, I beg to disagree. It is a matter of dignity: the law treats them like criminals for nothing and they have to live with that tag forever. There are thousands of homosexuals in India, in our cities and villages. How can we strip so many people of their dignity? Does that not violate the Constitution? What punishment can a court hand out to a homosexual? Whatever rigorous punishment is applied, it cannot change a person's sexual orientation. Should a gay person be hanged then? In our country, when murderers and rapists and even terrorists are not punished, why should we punish somebody who has done nothing to hurt someone else? How can we allow the state to enter a person's bedroom?

Lastly, some people make the foolish argument that if we allow gay sex then we might as well legalise prostitution and child abuse. This is absolute propaganda, devoid of logic and sense. Gay sex is between two consenting adults, while the others are crimes as they damage human lives and society. How can we compare the two?

The time is right to repeal Section 377. The second UPA Government must do this: it is absolutely essential that such a great abuse of human rights sponsored by the State ends. As the Court observed, much water has flown below the bridge.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Choice Sheet

Based on a previous post on how to fill in the choice sheet in a simple and effective manner, so as to avoid missing out on any option, I have published my choice sheet. Click on the following link to view it on Google Docs and Spreadsheets:


The link is also embedded into the title of this post.

The choice sheet is followed by the formula used to arrive at the final list. To understand the formula, read this.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Modify but don't scrap the Class 10 Boards

Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal's decision to look into the idea of scrapping the Class 10 Board Examination (commonly called 'the Boards') is both reassuring and discomforting. Reassuring, because it shows that the new Government is ready to be open-minded and take bold measures to reform education; and discomforting because the Class 10 boards do serve an important, though intangible, purpose.

First, the need for reforms. Indian education is in the doldrums: it's a fact. We've had absolute dinosaurs heading this ministry. Higher education is a total mess with over-the-night colleges becoming Deemed Universities and new Universities being opened without any vision, infrastructure or even staff. School education is equally bad with inadequate infrastructure and serious corruption, not to mention a horribly taxing academic system and zero-tolerance of failure.

To solve these issues, bold and far-ranging decisions must be taken. Our education system will have to come out of our colonial past. Sweeping reforms, such as re-looking Deemed Universities, creating multi-disciplinary Universities, abolishing the existing marks system, introducing school vouchers etc., will have to be taken. This will require sufficient foresight and negotiating skills, as Education falls under the Concurrent List and many states tend to oppose change.

Then, there is also the important argument that the Class 10 boards prepare a student for the competition ahead. This is true. While the Class 10 boards do not have any major effect on a student's life, some schools do use these results to segregate students into streams in Class 11. As the Minister said, this can easily be done away with through mutual discussion and reconciliation. Without this, the Class 10 Boards do not have any usage. However, the Class 12 boards do have a very important function: to gain admissions into colleges (for liberal arts and commerce) and as a qualifying exam (for Technical and Medical students) for entrance tests. The competitive environment changes drastically from Class 10 to Class 11. A Class 10 Board Exam introduces students to that environment. Thus, from a psychological point of view, the exam is a must.

So how should the Minister reconcile between these opposing arguments? I recommend a system that is known to be an indicator of relative, rather than absolute, performance i.e., percentile. In essence, percentile measures what percentage of students who wrote the exam did not do as well as that particular student. For example, if Student X gets 88 percentile, it means that 88% of students who wrote the exam did not do as well as X. It could mean that X got just 60 or 70% in his exam, but since he did better than 88% of the rest, he has actually done quite well. With the current system, an absolute mark (usually 90%+) is the criterion for being a 'good' student, even if nobody gets there. The percentile system is also better than the proposed system of Grades, as grades tend to group students and fails to reward hard work. For example, a student who scores 90% and one who score 93% get the same grade, which would be unfair to the latter.

To conclude, I believe that while the Class 10 Boards are far too stressful and comparatively unimportant, they do represent a milestone in a student's life. Hence, the system needs to be modified, but not scrapped. The Minister has promised to take the necessary steps in his tenure: the electorate is watching.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

IITs, IT-BHU and ISMU complete Course Allocation

Course allocation to the 15 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), The Institute of Technology of Benares Hindu University (IT-BHU) and Indian Schools of Mines University (ISMU) was completed today, with the data being released on the related websites of the IITs (IITM: jee.iitm.ac.in).

This year, two new IITs at Mandi, H.P. and Indore have been added and will offer B.Tech courses only. IIT, Mandi will be functioning in IIT Roorkee for the first year.

I have been allotted Polymer Science and Technology (5-Yr. Integrated M.Tech) at IIT, Roorkee (Saharanpur Campus). The course is an inter-disciplinary course with subjects from the Dept. of Chemistry, Dept. of Physics and the Dept. of Mathematics. While the first two years will be devoted to pure sciences (with a hint of Humanities), the last three years will be devoted to studies on Polymer Sciences, with a project in the last year. The course is under the Department of Paper Technology and is associated with industries in and around Saharanpur.

Of the173 items I provided in my choice sheet, this one is No. 54.

The IITs will begin dispatching admission letters from July 2 onwards. The website for course allocation also mentions the date of reporting. Students joining IIT, Roorkee (including the Saharanpur campus) and it's mentored institute IIT, Mandi will have to report on July 22.

From S1, OTFS has learned that Aditya has been allotted EE at IIT, Hyderabad, Divya Chemical at Gandhinagar, Abhiroop ECE at IT-BHU and Anurag ME at IIT, Mandi. (OTFS)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran's Struggle for Fake Democracy

The International media has been reporting, with a great degree of ferocity, the recent happenings in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where opposition supporters claim that President Mahmoud Amhedinejad rigged the elections. Iran's complex clerical order has been split by the development, with the Supreme Leader unconditionally extending his support to the victor and other powerful clerics supporting the vanquished. Meanwhile, people in Tehran have taken to the streets, calling for an end to dictatorship and ushering in an era of democracy. The media is severely restricted and riot police are using tear gas. Revolution is around the corner and change will come to Iran.

 

Or maybe not. The thing about the popular slogan in Iran, 'Death to the Dictator', is that it seems horribly hypocritical! Consider this: Iran is the only country in the world where the Head of State and Government does not have the final say in matters. 30 years ago, the Islamic Revolution led to the Ayatollah being made the Supreme Leader. While he can be removed in theory, the process is so complex and intertwined that it is not possible in practice.

 

This Supreme Leader can do anything, he can give orders and enjoy extraordinary luxury. He could decide where the country's resources are to be used and could also throw out the entire elected political system. Thus, unlike in a real democracy where representatives are accountable to the people, politicians in Iran are responsible to the Ayatollah. If the Ayatollah declares a candidate as 'the best,' he will win. Don't ask how, he just will.

 

Today in Iran, people are questioning the President, but nobody is willing to openly question the Ayatollah and indeed, the entire clergy. What sort of democracy is this? A democracy in which women cannot reveal a shard of their hair? Democracy represents the voice of the people, but the current system seems to keep it tied down. Iranians should look at the world - at the United States, France, the UK, Japan, India, Australia etc. - and see what democracy means. It does not mean holding elections, it means giving power to the people. It means that nobody is above the law of the land and only elected representatives have the right to make decisions for the country. Iran does not have such a system, and the current struggle, whether a failure or otherwise, will only leave is there.

 

Iranians love their country but cannot bear its political system. What Iranians should be asking for is genuine democracy and freedom of the press - even if that includes questioning the clergy and even the Supreme Leader.

EAMCET ranks declared

JNTU today declared the ranks of EAMCET-09 for admissions to some of the best engineering colleges in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The ranks were declared by the Minister for Higher Education of the state.

This year, 75% of the EAMCET marks came from the common test written by all students and 25% from the Class 12/Intermediate marks. The common test marks were declared in early June and now, with the Class 12/Intermediate marks taken into account, the ranks have been declared.

From S1, Divya Ravi's rank stood at 103, Namrata's at 98 and Sushobhan's at 160. OTFS is trying to collect more data.

Over the years, it has been observed that those who get below 1,000 rank tend to do well in other exams such as IITJEE, BITSAT and AIEEE as well and opt for those rather than EAMCET colleges. However, empirically, students who get a rank below 2,000 can hope to get into JNTU or OU, the best universities under EAMCET. Others could get good colleges around Hyderabad and other major cities in the state.

EAMCET ranks for medical students were also declared today. In Andhra Pradesh, competition for the medical stream is very stiff and this year's paper was difficult.

This year, EAMCET counselling for Engineering stream will be online in line with other major entrance exams. (OTFS)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 3: A Hero's Memorial


Day 3 was supposed to be quite and laid-back. But, what's the use of going to Chennai and not doing something fun? Rajiv Gandhi's memorial at Sriperumbudur was something that I wanted to see but had given up due to the distance. But, since we had so much time (it was 9:00 AM and we had to catch a train only at 6:00 PM), we decided to go for it.

A thing about Tamilians is that they are very helpful if you ask them in Tamil or English. The conductor at Anna Square, the bus depot, told us to take bus 25G to Poonamalai (he pronounced it 'Poothapalli'). It was a very long journey: nearly an hour and a half. However, it was useful as we got to see more of Chennai's roads. Here, the roads are very clean and the traffic police is efficient. And, unlike in Hyderabad, people more or less follow traffic rules.

The bus went from T. Nagar, something like the Times Square of Chennai, all the way to the outskirts in Poonamalai. There, we had to scout for another bus which would take us to Sriperumbudur. It turned out that almost every bus took that route, so we hopped into the first one. After a good 20 minutes, we reached Sriperumbudur. When Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated here, it was a village. Today, it's a town with highway-connectivity, good roads, shops, electricity, wireless telephone connection etc. It was quite easy finding the memorial: a giant-sized Indian flag flies over it, and you can see it quite easily even from far away.

We walked a short distance from the bus stop and crossed the road. Then, we entered the memorial (visiting hours are from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM). We were tired, but we could not stop moving: it was a magical, almost eerie feeling. We walked around the perimeter and then towards the sandstone memorial. 'The Path of Light,' the last steps that Rajiv Gandhi took, caught my attention. The entire scene was moving. After clicking lots of pictures, we left.

It was a long journey back, but it was worth it. A hearty lunch and we were ready to leave. We were going home by Sleeper Class, which is very uncomfortable. We were accompanied by a quirky group that did not talk much, so we went to sleep very early. I kept tossing and turning and barely got 2-3 hours of sleep, while two gents simply dived into their cell-phones the entire night. naturally, they were asleep way past everybody else.

We reached Sec'bad station early, so we got off there. In a few minuets, we were home, and I was relieved (for various reasons, but mainly because my phone was out of roaming and the weather was not SUPER-HUMID AND HOT). Now, I have to complete the AIEEE and BITSAT forms and wait till Jun. 24 to know what I've been allocated in IIT.

Incidentally, I got my AIEEE score card when I got home. Did you?

Chennai Day 2: The Future of our Country


Day 2 was scheduled to start very early: rise and shine at 6:30 AM, get ready to leave by 7:30 AM, reach IIT, Madras by 9:00 AM or earlier. However, what we didn't anticipate was the autos; in Hyderabad, empty autos move around in search of customers. In Chennai, it seems, they hide is pre-selected areas. Which is why it too us a good 20 minutes to get a empty one! As usual, the charge was random: Rs. 120. But we couldn't bargain as we were afraid of being late.

We reached IITM only to find a large group of other candidates who qualified in JEE. I had to blush, as I was the only one to wear semi-formals: everybody else was in casuals!However, it scarcely mattered as nobody was even talking to each other. We stormed into a very crowded bus that took us as close to the SAC (Student Activity Centre) Building as possible: but we had to walk quite a long distance. However, it was useful as we got to see the picturesque campus.

At the SAC Building, we were given an address slip and an undertaking, but more about that later. I met Mohit and Leela Krishna and then went on to the auditorium, where the Chairman, JEE, IITM was addressing us. He talked about the IIT system, the admission process etc., essentially reiterating the points made in the brochure. After him, there were some presentations on new courses and the new IITs, followed by an excellent presentation by an alumnus.

We were then asked to go to the IC&SR building (where I also happened to meet Pranay). But first, we had to fill up the undertaking, which is a promise from our side that we will 'slide up within the same campus,' a process designed for the second counselling. However, very few people will actually need this. At the IC&SR building, we were given time to talk to some IITM professors. I spoke to two from the Electronics Dept. and they were very helpful. Now, we were expected to follow a certain order while verifying our forms in the Auditorium. However, nobody took this seriously and we were allowed to go in at random.

In the auditorium, I deposited my DD and then verified my forms. They returned my originals and gave me a green status slip, which allowed me to proceed to the Web Studio on the Third Floor. Here, a 'typist,' who was probably a student himself (he didn't look much older than me and wore several LiveStrong bands on his wrist), noted down my choices. The choice sheet was 173 items long, as I had used a mechanical formula to fill it in rather than a random, opinion-based technique. In spite of the typist-guy's sarcasm ("Is that all?"), I felt vindicated, as almost everybody was struggling to add more items to their list. Most had put in just 20-30 items, while the Chairman had clearly said that we should put down a 'large' number of choices. Well, since mine was probably the largest list, I didn't have to think much. I got my print-outs and signed on each sheet.

Finally, I went to the Vice-Chairman and took his signature. In a rather amusing turn of events, he gave me the copy that he was supposed to take! He nearly missed me, but at the end, we exchanged our copies and I left.

I was supposed to go to the Snake park after that (it was 12:30 and I hadn't eaten anything the whole day). It was too hot and I was too hungry, so we dropped the plan. We had lunch and spent the entire day at the mess in the cool AC. And so ended a very exciting day.

Chennai Day 1: Sweating it out

The journey by train was comfortable as the Charminar Express zoomed along the Indian peninsula. I was spoiling myself in the comforts of the AC when I realised that we had arrived at Chennai Central station. The moment I disembarked from the train, I could feel the humidity. Although I lived in coastal cities before, Chennai was markedly different: it was blisteringly hot and extremely humid at the same time: a sort of all-encompassing sauna!

We took an auto to INS Adyar. Now, an interesting thing about the man who drove the auto was that he could understand Hindi, but replied only in Tamil! Another thing: autos here simply do not go by the meter. Ever. Even the most seasoned bargainer from Hyderabad will be overcome by the Chennai autowallah!

After our auto escapades, my father and I checked into our room in the INS Adyar Officers' Mess. It was nice: a cozy, but hot, living room, an air-conditioned room with an attached bathroom and a dysfunctional TV and a nice veranda with a view of the Chennai Port Trust. The food was very good and varied each day, with dishes from all over the country. My all-time favourites were the fried okra and the carrot-cake with honey.

In the evening, we decided to take a walk. The most striking landmark of the area is the 1971 War Memorial, which doubles up as a roundabout. A little distance from there is Anna Square, a bus depot. Ahead is the memorial of CN Annadurai, the founder of the DMK, which currently governs Tamil Nadu. The memorial is well-built and is beautiful to look at from a distance. Right next to it is the memorial of MG Ramachandran, who founded the AIADMK, which is currently in the Opposition. Again, this is a well-built memorial that can handle fairly large crowds.

Adjacent to these two memorials is the Marina Beach - supposedly the longest beach in the world. The beach was quite a nice place, but the huge number of tourists and hawkers left quite a lot of trash on it. This has spoilt its beauty. Nonetheless, the cool breeze blowing across your face as you stand on the shore is an unforgettable experience. As for the hawkers: most of them sell chat, which is strange as chat is a very North Indian kind of food and this is a state which has a history of anti-Northism. However, the chat I had was quite bad, with no yogurt and too much onion. I would've probably been unable to finish it sans the Spirte that I bought at a neighbouring stall.

A delicious dinner at the mess and I was ready for a good night's rest. With the air conditioner on, of course. I suspect that if politicians offered free ACs, rather than free TVs, it would win them several elections!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Off to Chennai

In another three to four hours, I'll be on my way to Chennai via rail. Chennai - previously known as Madras in British India and also for some time in Independent India - is described as a mix of the old and the new.

Among the various sights I would like to see during my short stay are the famous Marina Beach (supposedly the longest beach in the world) and the Snake Park. I might also be able to sneak in a visit to CN Annadurai's memorial, although Rajiv Gandhi's memorial in Sriperumbudur is just too far off.

Of course, there is also the main reason that I'm going to Chennai: the IIT Counselling at IIT Madras (IITM). I have no hopes here: I have already filled up the forms and the preferences list, but I might get just Metallurgy or Petroleum in Kharagpur or Roorkee or, even worse, something in ISMU. The only thing to be happy about is the fact that I'm in the list of students who have been called for counselling: about 2% of students who wrote the exam IITJEE! In fact, my real counselling will begin when I return and fill-in my BITS and AIEEE forms.

But till then, it's going to be a mix of fun, serious discussion and a lot of sweating. I'll be back on Wednesday. I'll try to blog while in Chennai, but I can't guarantee anything. But I'll write about the entire process once I'm back. And, of course, I'm carrying my cell phone to click plenty of pics to upload on to Facebook!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Open Letter to Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav

Dear Laluji,

The Women's Reservation Bill, which you oppose in its current form, is making headlines yet again. The Congress, the BJP and the Left want it to be passed in its current form, while you do not.

Laluji, please don't take us for a ride. You want a sub-quota for women of various castes. We all know that you oppose any quota like this at all, because you, your kin and your comrades will lose their seats; this has been made very clear by your friend, Mulayam Singh's statements.

Your party is a casteist party. You depend on caste votes. A woman candidate is an anathema to your party: they do not possess the muscle power and dishonesty that you need to win an election. You are asking for this sub-quota (part of which is unconstitutional) because that is the only way you can milk this issue. You forget that all parties allot tickets based on caste, and that is why OBC men are so well-represented in Parliament. You know that with a reservation for women, OBC women would get better representation automatically. You are simply afraid that your kith and kin will lose their seats.

Laluji, two years ago, you stood for OBC reservations in education. Then, you said that 'merit is a genetic accident.' We, the students, Laluji, lost our seats. We suffered. Those with lots of money, acquired through black money and real estate, gained. Today, Laluji, it is your turn. Your seat is in danger and that is why you are fighting tooth and nail to keep it. That is what we, the students did, two years back. We lost. When somebody else's seat was being given to a disadvantaged group, you called it 'social justice'; when your seat has to be given up for another disadvantaged group, you call it a conspiracy.

But this time, Laluji, we have Dr. Manmohan Singhji: a man of honesty and integrity. and behind him is the Congress party, with it's 200 seats. Supporting the issue is the BJP with 116 seats. While consensus is the best way forward, Laluji, it is not the only. If you choose to block the Bill yet again, it can still be passed, because you control just 4 seats now and have been vanquished. When there is no consensus, the opinion of the majority must prevail: that is democracy.

Your party's days are numbered, Laluji. Change is coming.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's the use of my State Rank?

This post is in reply to a comment posted by a reader on a previous post.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which conducts AIEEE for engineering into BE/B.Tech and B.Arch courses, declares two sets of ranks for the exam: an All India set of ranks and a State set of ranks.

As of the academic year 2008-09, 50% of seats in all the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) are reserved for students who reside in that state where the NIT is located. For example, NIT, Warangal, which is in the state of Andhra Pradesh, reserves 50% of its seats for Andhra students. The remaining 50% is open to students from all the other states of India. In case a particular state does not have an NIT, students from there will be included in the 50% quota in a nearby state. Why do the NITs do this? To promote education in their state; because the Union Ministry is stoking regional chauvinism; because of politics... there are lots of reasons. But it does happen.

How does one decide which state one resides in? It is not an arbitrary decision; while filling in the AIEEE Application form, students are required to mention their state, and this alone will determine which state they belong to (even if the student moves to another state before the admission process is over).

While taking admission to an NIT of their state, a student competes within the 50% earmarked for their state. Consequently, they only compete with students of their own state using their State rank. Consider my example. I live in Andhra Pradesh. If I apply to NIT, Warangal by putting it in my priority list, I will be selected based on my State rank, not my All India rank. Say my All India rank is 2000 but my state rank is 200, I would get a very good course in NIT, Warangal based on my state rank but not my All India rank. Note that even within your state you can still compete on the basis on your All India rank, but it would be rather foolish to do so.

However, if I apply to an NIT outside my state, I will be competing for the 50% of seats earmarked for students of other states and will use my All India rank. This can lead to a paradoxical situation wherein I can get a great course in my state but not outside of it.

In short, your State rank used when you apply to an NIT within your state, but the moment you leave your state or apply to any deemed university that uses AIEEE ranks, you will compete on the basis of your All India rank. Note that your turn in counselling will be determined by your category rank.

PIC: NIT, WARANGAL

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Quirky ad from McDonald's



Title: Chicken Khane ka Naya Stylum
Product: McDonald's Chicken McNuggets
Rating: ***** of 5
Pros: Really funny music, convincing acting, describes the product (with the dip) well
Cons: I can't really think of any!

Some ads follow a standard formula, but the ones that really create brand recall are the quirky ones. This ad from McDonald's has a funny fusion of classic Indian music and modern rap. The acting is also good and the storyline is simple and quick.

How to fill in the Brochure: My Idea

Filling in the IIT Counselling brochure can be a very troublesome process, particularly if your rank is low. You could fill in the form after thorough debate and consultations, but it is highly likely that you will want to change your list the very next day. Hence, I have devised a simple algorithm to create a formula to fill in the list. This can also be applied to other exams with minor tweaks.

  1. Read the counselling brochure thoroughly and understand the merits and demerits of a course and a campus.
  2. With a pencil (NOT a pen), tick those courses that you would like to take. If you have no general likings towards any of them, tick all of them. However, this is rather unusual. Instead, tick those courses which you found interesting after reading the brochure. If your rank is low, you may 'expand your interests' but don't try to study a course that you have a disliking towards.
  3. Again, with a PENCIL, tick those IIT campuses (or IT-BHU and ISMU) that you would not mind living in. Take care to see that you can actually travel there on a regular basis and consider the safety and stability of the city. Note that IIT Guwahati is absolutely safe and you are in no greater risk of being killed by a bomb than you are anywhere else in India.
  4. Take a sheet of paper. Write down the courses you ticked IN DECREASING ORDER OF PREFERENCE. Be very careful while doing this. Consult with your parents and other informed well-wishers (note the emphasis) but let the final list be of your own making. if you can't decide, make several lists and debate the pros and cons of each of them. Create a final list. I don't recommend you do this solely on the basis of the cut-offs.
  5. Do the same on another sheet of paper for the campuses. However, keep your parents well in the loop for this, because they will ultimately be paying for your trip and will be worried until you reach safely. Also, take the cut-offs into account.
  6. Finally, choose which of the two lists matters more to you. This will require a great deal of introspection. Ask yourself questions like: can you travel alone (be honest and dump the masochism)?; Are you passionate about a course or do you just want to do your B.Tech?; Do you have relatives in one of the cities in question? etc. Put a '*' on the list that you feel is more important.
  7. And now, you're ready! If you chose the list of courses, find your course in order of preference in the brochure, then fill in the course codes in your form in order of preference of your campus. For example, if you put ECE as your first choice of course and you would like to study it in Bombay or Chennai in that order, write the code for ECE-Bombay first, the ECE-Chennai and so on. After you finish with ECE, go on to the next course.
    If you chose the campus list, go to the column which contains your first preference of campus and fill in the course codes in order of preference of courses. For example, if you gave fist preference to Guwahati and you want ECE or EEE in that order, find the IIT Guwahati column and write the code for ECE-Guwahati in your form first and then the one for EEE-Guwahati. Once Guwahati is done, move on to the next campus.
In this way, you will be able to fill up the form in a systematic manner. Now, a big question on everybody's mind is how far should you bend your liking while choosing a course if your rank is low. There are two inter-dependent factors: your performance in other entrance exams and your desire for the IIT tag. If you did well in other exams, I don't think you should bend too much. If you are interested in a particular course, you will do well in it wherever you study. If you can get CSE in BITS, Pilani or NIT, Warangal, but only Ceramic Engineering in IIT, I think you should take one amongst the first two (unless of course you are highly interested in Ceramic Engineering). As for the IIT brand value, it is very significant but there's a limit as to how far your brand value can take you. Eventually, it'll boil down to how hard-working and dedicated you are, and even an IIT graduate who is very lazy and does not want to work hard will not get a good job. And a hard-working, dedicated engineer from even a state University will do well in life.

As I said before, this formula can also be used to fill in the AIEEE and BITS, Pilani forms. It all depends on what you like and how street-smart you are. Good luck to all of you (and to me too)!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Counselling Brochure Arrives

The Counselling Brochure for students from S1 who qualified in IITJEE-09 has been received by most students. Students who put down the college's address can collect it from the AIEEE campus. IIT-Madras sent the brochures by speed post.

The brochure is rather large, with details about the IITs, courses and various cut-offs and subject codes. There are also some forms that students will have to fill up, including a medical certificate filled in by a registered medical practitioner.

Students called for counseling will have to go to IIT-Madras on the date specified in their counselling letter.

OTFS has also found out that 10-11 students from S1 qualified in JEE-09, while about 30 from S1, 4-5 from S2 and 1 from S3 made it to the EML. (OTFS)

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's with the State Rank?

While going through the forum on goIIT, I discovered this interesting paradox. A student from Maharashtra, whose All India rank is nearly double of mine, secured a state rank that's just half of mine! 

While I can't prove it, I think this points to the quality of education in different states. I've seen a student from Uttar Pradesh whose All India rank is abysmal but State Rank is quite respectable! In contrast, the competition in Andhra Pradesh is very tight, as a student who secured an All India Rank of 200 got state rank 20!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What should I do?

The image above is a concise description of my options. My problem is this: if I can get a stream in one of the new IITs, should I go for that just to get the IIT-brand name on me? Or, should I go to BITS, Pilani because I can get a stream of my liking? And if distance becomes a derailing factor in BITS, should I go to NIT, Warangal (this is unlikely though)?

The answer will be well known by the end of the month. Keep watching this space for more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Going from Bad to Worse

After the results of the General Elections poured in, political parties, particularly the ones that lost, took stock of the situation and tried to find out the reasons for the mandate. 

Two prominent leaders - Jayalalitha of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and N Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP in Andhra Pradesh - seemed to understand that the people had rejected their opportunistic and fickle brand of politics. However, they couldn't say that in public. So, they blamed the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)! 

Jayalalitha - whose huge loss surprised even her opponents - 'advised' the EC to go back to primitive paper ballots. According to her, Western countries rejected EVMs and hence India should follow. This is extremely twisted logic. True, some states in the US and several countries still use paper ballots, but there are several others that use EVMs. And while some countries have dropped the EVMs, it is primarily because of a problem in the way they were designed and their cost. In India, the EVMs have been used in phases and have been modified and updated to eliminate problems. Moreover, they are cheap, user-friendly and lighting fast. Other countries, such as Nepal and Bhutan, have bought or rented these EVMs from us to hold elections. We do not need to ape the West blindly and our engineers are skilled enough to design foolproof devices.

Chandrababu Naidu did not provide details as to why he opposes EVMs, given that he credits himself to turning Hyderabad into an IT hub. The obvious reason is that the party workers are upset at the party's second consecutive loss and he needs to push the blame onto somebody else, the EC in this case. 

The truth is that EVMs are excellent devices that save a lot of time and money and are also environmentally-friendly. The EC deserves great praise for using them all over India, making the election process smooth and sleek. There is no going back to paper ballots: that age is over. The Indian Government might also consider making EVMs exportable products as they would be of great use to smaller democratic countries that need to save money.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

EAMCET marks come as a surprise

June 1: The Convener of EAMCET-09 released the results today. The highest in the state in the Engineering Category was 153/160, well below last year's 160/160. The reasons attributed to his are improvement in the quality of questions and an overhaul of the syllabus to make it in line with the CBSE syllabus. In the medical stream, the highest stood at 149/160.

My mark is 131/160, Maths 67, Physics 34, Chemistry 30

Two questions each from the medical and engineering stream were deleted and some changes were made to some other questions in line with recommendations received from across the state. However, during the release of the marks, activists of the BJP student wing, the ABVP, protested against the erroneous questions. According to them, the questions for such an important exam must be perfect to ensure that students are not confused during the exam and end up wasting time.

In S1, Aditya topped yet again with a total of 143/160. Some other marks that OTFS has obtained are Divya (134), Sushobhan (131) and Abhiroop (121). There were several students who scored below 100 marks.

Now that the marks have been submitted, students of CBSE and ICSE/ISC syllabi will have to submit their mark sheets. The marks of IPE students is already available with the Convener. The following formulas will be used to calculate the final mark:
Final EAMCET Mark = (EAMCET Mark*75)/160
Final IPE Mark = (IPE Mark in core subjects*25)/600
The two will be added to obtain a score out of 100 and then the students will be ranked accordingly. In case of a tie, the tie breaker will follow the order Maths, Physics, IPE marks (including languages) and finally, date of birth (the first to be born will be awarded a higher rank).

This year, counseling will online. The modalities will be made known at an appropriate time. (OTFS)

What about us?

The recent controversy of racist attacks on Indian students in Australia has created quite a stir among students. We seem to have come together to protest against these condemnable acts. However, it is appropriate to question our moral authority in protesting against racist attacks.

Are Indians not racist? I certainly believe that we are. Fair-skinned people are good-looking, dark-skinned people are ugly: while we may deny this, secretly, most Indians agree. A simple glance at matrimonial columns proves it: 'fair complexion' is as important as a good job! The endless ads on TV for 'skin whitening/lightening' products seem to work as these products sell quite well. Foreign tourists with white skin are stared at, some people go to the extent of clicking pictures with them like animals in a zoo! And most importantly, doesn't caste-discrimination also count as a form of racism? How are students of so-called lower castes treated in our institutes of learning?

Are students safe in India? No. Not entirely, at least. Ragging is known to take dozens of life each year, yet the authorities in most states seem blissfully unaware or purportedly uncaring. Anybody - student or otherwise - who drives or walks late at night risks his/her life and certainly money. Girls in particular are at great risk. Anybody's house can be burgled.

If Australian education comes with a risk to one's life, why does one even go there? Or any other country, for that matter? It's because the Higher Education system in India is a mess. There are not enough opportunities at any level: school or college. Quality is never seen as a criterion, with engineering colleges in the state of Andhra Pradesh alone being approved at breathtaking speed without any regulation. We have had two dinosaurs - Murli Manohar Joshi and Arjun Singh - running the Union HRD Ministry and State Education Ministers don't seem to have done a very good job either. 

While the media has decided to play this issue as an 'us versus them,' it is important for us to take some lessons from it. We Indians are racist as well. In fact, racism is a problem that affects most of the world. Instead of making accusations against all Australians, we should do some introspection. Our education system - both school and college - need far-reaching reforms. Our affirmative action programme ('reservations') is dividing the country further and the disadvantaged remain so. Our police force is so powerless in front of politicians that they no longer fight crime with a vengeance, they are not 'allowed' to. While we condemn the atrocities in Australia, we should also look to set our own house in order.