The scholarship will offer assistance up to ₹2 lakh per year to deserving students
Ruyintan Mehta has a simple take on giving back to society: “You can’t take it back with you. So you might as well give.”
An IIT Bombay alumnus of 1970 batch, Mr. Mehta has just donated $200,000 to his alma mater to be utilised over four years to support financially weak undergraduate students.
The scholarship will be disbursed through a new partnership of IIT Bombay Alumni Association with Foundation for Excellence (FFE) as part of the Erach & Meheroo Mehta Memorial-FFE Scholarship under the aegis of the Financial Aid Program (FAP). Named after his parents, the scholarship would offer assistance from ₹40,000 up to ₹2 lakh per year to deserving and needy students.
IIT students appear well cared for, but Mr. Mehta says it is still short of the financial help available to students in global elite institutions, for example, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, which gets $100 million per year from the American Technological Society.
IIT-B has the reputation of being a more student-friendly IIT, with its benevolent fund and the merit-cum-means scholarship. But many students need more help with other requirements, including attending academic conferences and seminars. FAP covers the entire registration fee, including tuition fee and mess bill. Students are urged to plough the money back once they are financially secure.
As he turned 69, Mr. Mehta’s motivation was simple: nostalgia for the unbeatable campus life and the desire to help out when the fees have gone up a hundred-fold. “When I was studying, my tuition fees were ₹200 per annum. All my expenses including my cinema visits were covered in less than ₹2,000. My father would marvel how inexpensive it was! I attributed it entirely to the highly subsidised education system in India.”
His eyes sparkle as he recalls that when he was a student, his mess bill would be a little higher “by ₹10 or so” because he would binge on the cosmopolitan fare laid out before him every day. “I came to IIT Bombay as a 16-year-old without any exposure to dosas and idlis and such. It was in my hostel at IIT that I got to enjoy all kinds of food and met all kinds of people from all parts of the country.”
Mr. Mehta took with him to the U.S. memories and a commitment. It was with the help of like-minded IIT alumni that the IIT Bombay Heritage Foundation — the official alumni association — was formed in the U.S. to support financially stressed students. The association, of which Mr. Mehta is the president, collects and disburses about $1.5 million to $2 million every year. Mr. Mehta is also associated with Dakshana Foundation, which trains poor students all over the country to appear for IIT-JEE and medical colleges.
Other initiatives for IIT students include WHEELS, also by IIT alumni in the US, which addresses issues related to water, health, education, energy and livelihood and sustainability.
Dean, student affairs, IIT Bombay, Dr Soumyo Mukherji, pointed out that IIT demographics had changed in the past decade-and-a-half. It was not just the economically underprivileged sections that needs being addressed; a sizeable number of students belong to socially disadvantaged sections of society and need support in dealing with an education in English and social interfacing. In this area, FFE offers voluntary mentorship to students.