IIT-B Head quits; joins U.S. firm
si Team
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In a move that drew bouquets and brickbats from across the country, IIT Bombay (IIT-B) Director Ashok Misra, quit the post he held for eight years to join Intellectual Ventures, a private company based at Bellevue, U.S.

Many feel that Misra, a brilliant professor who made several research and development contributions to the country, should not have left India at this moment, while Misra thinks it is right time to take such a decision. “It is time to do something new, which is different from the teaching and research I have done all my life. And also, nobody may be interested in hiring me later,” he says with a smile.

His tenure at IIT-B was marked with frequent controversies. Most of them hovered around the matter of increased interference by the Human Resource Development ministry in the working of institutions of higher learning.

An outspoken Misra refers to these interferences saying, “I am more than capable of dealing with issues like these. When the ministry decided to introduce the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota in the IITs, I let my opinion be known. But once the ministry decided on the quota, I implemented it. We have not had to compromise on the caliber of the students. Let’s see what happens about the 27 percent reservation.”

A few months back, Misra was handed the responsibility of mentoring the new IITs in Gujarat and Indore, Madhya Pradesh. But he wrote to the HRD ministry that the Indore project could be taken up only next year. This project now will have to be designated to a new person.

The IIT Bombay Director is probably the only one to have joined a private firm.Misra earned his B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT Kanpur in 1968 and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science & Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1974.

Prior to his stint at IIT-B, he was in IIT Delhi where he headed the Centre for Polymer Science & Engineering from 1991 to ’94, and also served as Dean, Alumni Affairs & International Program from 1997 to 2000.

Misra’s contributions have earned him several accolades including the fellowship of the National Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Academy of Engineering. Besides publishing 70 papers in international journals, he has won six patents.

As during his incumbency, the resignation also seems to have instigated fiery debates. The comments posted on Siliconindia.com following the news of his quitting the post reflect this. According to some readers, politicians’ belligerent policies that are forcing North Indians like Misra out of Maharashtra, are to blame. But one comment bluntly accuses him of betraying the country. It says that Misra has great hunger for money and that is why he leaves for a firm in the U.S. However so many others support him saying that it is better for him to leave so that he can do something new and utilize his potential to its maximum extent, a possibility that one can never have at a government post.

Founded in 2000, Intellectual Ventures invests in inventions and aims to develop a patents portfolio.

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