As I shared my piece suggesting enforcement of a policy of recovery of cost from students of Indian institutes of excellence such as IIT, NIT etc. on social media, I faced a barrage of criticism, so I am tempted to write this rejoinder.
To all the young people who feel that they have a natural right to follow their dreams and consider a move to recover the cost to the nation from IITians flying out to the nation to be retrograde, draconian and also harmful for the nation as it will kill the appetite for growth, I have a simple question.
Can you mix capitalism with socialism?
What will happen when we have the virtue of selfishness and virtue of altruism simultaneously followed in one system?
There is no doubt that many parts so the world, including India, are getting more prosperous because of a sort of neo-capitalism that is emerging out of the dreams of youth.
Driven by the fuel of gratification, it is aspiring young people to endeavour harder than ever before to excel and succeed. It is a good idea, if not great, provided you want a nation to move forward. I have no real problem with capitalism as a policy followed by a nation, provided it is completely and uniformly applied.
So, if an IITian feels that she has a right to convert her talent to economic reward in the best possible manner anywhere in the world, it is completely fine. The only issue is unhindered idea of self-growth is permitted under the system of capitalism and hence, if she considers the idea of flying out of the nation for her own growth, she has to also accept the other key idea of capitalism.
The fundamental idea in building a system around the virtue of selfishness is that it requires a system where everyone is pursuing their own selfish agenda. The entire balance of a capitalist system depends on the core of universal selfishness to keep it stable.
So, it is against the fundamentals of capitalism to apply it in a system where some stakeholders are altruistic. It is easy to see that such a mix would just lead to disproportionate gain for the selfish over the altruistic.
In very simple terms, to make a capitalist ideology work, we can’t have IITs or NITs function in altruistic mode while kids consider selfishness as their birthright. It would just mean that kids gain and systems supporting IITs to remain subsidised lose.
It is entirely in tune with natural justice that if we permit kids pursuit of selfish growth, IITs have to ape them and respond exactly in the same way.
As a nation with limited resources, we have promoted the idea of institutes of excellence for one single objective. We agreed to go out of the way to fund them disproportionately to train our best talents to help the nation.
There can’t be any other justification for investing so much more in training thousands at IITs while depriving millions of students studying in state universities from even a small part of that.
IIT or NIT was not what India could afford. They were created because India needed them. It is a very special sacrifice the nation has made, and that is at the cost of a far larger mass of students. So, IITs or NITs are answerable to those millions of student who study with lesser resources.
As we are now in an age of freedom of choice as a keyword, there is an emotional built up amongst the youth of these academics who are not keen to recognise the truth of India, which is a poor mother feeding one child more than her other progeny in hope that he will grow up and help the family.
So, it is unlikely that the socialism of poor makes sense in modern times to people living in an open world, hence I don’t feel that there is much hope for the idealism here.
Where we stand today, it is only fair to relook at institutes of excellence from a capitalist perspective. For those who want to study there to train to help the nation must be extended all the help possible, as it does make sense if disproportionate investment by the collective in highly talented individuals.
There is no real injustice if those who feel that their growth is more important are either charged higher fees or are made to pay for the education in some other form.
And, as a closing note, if you are an IITian planning to attack me for this horrible proposal, do me one favour. Before forming your arguments, do find out the yearly allocation made by the state to the state university nearest to you and compare it with what an average IIT gets.
This is with a hope that selfishness doesn’t always erase a sense of fairness in young hearts.