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Don't interfere in higher education

K Raghavendra Rao | February 12, 2004

K Raghavendra Rao, the son of a railway clerk and a brilliant student throughout school and college, passed out from IIM-Ahmedabad in 1977 when he was just 19. He worked for various companies until 1992, before going into business. Orchid Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, one of India's shining stars, expects to have revenues of Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) by 2005.

Raghavendra Rao discusses the government's decision to slash fees at the IIMs.

IIMs: Trials and Tribulations

I don't agree with the government's interference with the independence of higher education. Institutions like the IIMs should be allowed to run independently. They have done a great job and I don't think there is any reason to interfere.

There is no difficulty for people from the middle class to get either scholarships or loans, which is what I did. I stood first in Andhra University in B Com and got a merit scholarship for two years. There was a shortage of Rs 6,000, and for that I took a loan from the State Bank of India. The SBI has a branch inside IIM-A itself, and without any collateral, without any security, they gave me the loan. They do this sort of thing even now.

In the first year of my employment itself, I repaid the loan. It is a kind of a fund which is recycled and given to the next student. No student ever suffered because s/he could not pay the fees. S/he can easily borrow. Even now, the State Bank is willing to give the loan of one-and-a-half lakh rupees on the campus itself.

When you look at the kind of salaries students get when they come out of the IIMs, the fees are only three months of your salary. I would say you damn well pay that.

I don't believe a poor student would get in just by reducing the fees at the IIMs.

We were not people born with a silver spoon. My father was a clerk in the Railways. He used to earn Rs 700 a month. Still, I went to Ahmedabad. I got a scholarship, I got a loan. So, I don't believe in cutting the fees at all.

Let the government not confuse poor people's education with the IIMs. The IIMs have enough corpus to run the business; they know best what they are doing. They are giving good education to students, and students can afford to pay with the help of banks. The cycle can go on as it has gone on till now.

If the government really wants to do something for the poor, let them invest in primary education, invest in healthcare, invest in poverty eradication, invest in self employment so that the poor send their wards to school. Attack that area and give
free education.

'Students are made to pay enormous amounts of money'

I read they are going to start 10,000 schools to eradicate child labour. Let them open 20,000 schools and make primary
education compulsory. When you give them the basic knowledge, they get skills early in life. Let these students come up to the graduation level. Let me tell you their economic status will have no bearing on their passing the entrance examination or the group discussion or the interview at all.

IITs and IIMs are not meant for the rich or the poor; they don't differentiate at all.

So, give primary and secondary education free of cost and not interfere in higher education.

K Raghavendra Rao spoke to Shobha Warrier

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