Homecoming 2019 had a unique feature that will make it stand out in the history of IIT Kharagpur. This was the first time that the alumni of the Institute took a formal pledge of loyalty. On August 17, a day before the Foundation Day of the Institute, members of the 1999, 2004 and 2009 batches who came for the event thanked their alma mater for nurturing them, helping them “grow in knowledge and wisdom”, instilling in them “faith and integrity”, and promoting “intellectual freedom, dialogue and diversity”.
‘Homecoming’ is an annual event in IIT Kharagpur’s calendar. Since 2018, batches who have completed 20, 15 and 10 years have been congregating on campus to celebrate, together with students, faculty and campus residents, the birthday of the Institute on August 18. This year, more than a hundred alumni from batches of 1999, 2004 and 2009 came for Homecoming.
The assembled alumni pledged loyalty to their alma mater. They promised to “uphold the ideals and prestige” of the Institution and make use of every opportunity to speak on its behalf, give back their time, talent, and whatever else they could share, visit their alma mater and represent her with “passion and loyalty”. They also promised to enrich the world with whatever they had learnt at IIT Kharagpur.
“I am a KGPian for life. And proud to be one,” is how the pledge ended.
Sarika Singh, who graduated in 1999 in Mathematics, said, “The pledge is wonderfully worded and I liked it very much. I think it has been liked by all.” She thanked the Institute for hosting her for Homecoming, which she said, “is a really nice way to help us reconnect with the Institute and our batchmates.”
Singh’s batchmate, Chandra Shekhar Prasad from Computer Science and Engineering, said, “It felt nice to take the pledge, but I don’t think we really need it. We pledged our loyalty to this Institute 20 years back.” His friend from Aerospace Engineering, Alokesh Das, chipped in saying, “We’ll preserve this pledge and try our best to act on it.”
At the ‘KGP & You’ session on August 17, conducted by the Dean, Alumni Affairs, Prof. Subrata Chattopadhyay, the 1999 batch, which had the strongest presence at Homecoming, pledged to be the next Founding Endowment Batch of the Institute by raising a collection of Rs 50 lakh or more.
Out of the donations made by the Founding Endowment batches, the Institute has recently launched the Undergraduate Research Program (UGRP) that will fund 20 research projects initiated by undergraduate students. The program will be implemented from the current academic session 2019-20.
Vikram Vippula, who graduated in Chemical Engineering in 1999, tried to build up the mood for his batch by saying, “When I think back, I realize that we had paid only Rs 1,000 per semester for our studies.” To his batchmates he said, “If you guys reflect back, please think how much subsidization you extracted and now how much you need to give back.” His plea was greeted by resounding appreciation at the Bhatnagar auditorium.
During the session, Prof. Chattopadhyay, Dean, Alumni Affairs, reminded the batches that it was not just financial donations, but there are many ways of ‘giving back’. He exhorted them to consider the newly launched ADEP or Alumni Department Engagement Programme, where alumni are encouraged to teach students as visiting faculty, or take lectures and workshops, or help in foreign and industry collaborations or in placements and internships for students.
What came through during the discussions was the concern about the hostels. “Are we thinking ahead?” asked an alumnus. Prof. Chattopadhyay reassured them. “We have prioritized where the Institute will need to intervene about bettering the hostel infrastructure and facilities and we are calling it the ‘minimum programme’ that will be executed by us,” he said.
Associate Dean, Alumni Affairs, Prof. Surjya Kanta Pal, pointed to the alumni-Institute engagement in the newly established DHI Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing in the Institute and encouraged the alumni to come forward in research and training activities and in “knowledge sharing”.
The batches of Homecomers had several ideas to share with IIT Kharagpur. Many of them wanted students to go out and work on local problems and use technology to resolve issues. One idea – to have a service corps of students and faculty who would go out to cities/localities and resolve problems with frugal technology use, and have their stipends and expenses borne by the alumni – won appreciation from the Deans.
Before they came to the campus, the Office of Alumni Affairs had written to the Homecomers of 2019, “It helps to rekindle thoughts of service, give ideas concrete shape, and bring life to dormant wishes. The pledge will help you realize the thoughts you already treasure in your heart for your alma mater, and may even push you to bring them to fruition.”
The care with which the Homecomers held their copies of the ‘Pledge’ as they trooped out of Bhatnagar auditorium that day made it obvious that they would treasure it for the rest of their life. It was only a matter of time before they acted on it as well.
Photo credit: ChickenSnake Films