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Washington – The need to collaborate on a global scale to create programs which will solve common problems of humanity was reiterated on Friday at a select gathering of members of the IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology) community and their friends in the greater Washington area.

Addressing the audience, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, an ex-IITian and incumbent director of IIT Madras at Chennai said, “In the education system, the IITs are now have become models for the universities in India.”

“With a crown jewel status, the nation has sky high expectations of the IITs,” said Ramamurthi, listing them as “high global ratings; produce world class research; turn out top of the line students; and assist industry to develop technologies.”

Although these expectations are not in black and white, Prof Ramamurthi highlighted them as essential saying, “If India needs to succeed, the IITs in their limited role need to do all those things.”

With all the old IITs (five in total: Kharagpur, Kanpur, Bombay, Delhi and Madras) becoming “very research oriented,” there was an increasing effort to enhance this research to help Indian industries not only to compete globally, but also inspire them to become global leaders, according to Prof Ramamurthi.

Ramamurthi went on to share a short movie showcasing an excellent example of a successful program on wheels where cataract operations and eye care was provided with mobile vehicles taking medical facilities to interior rural India, where there is not even any power supply.

In the same context, the speakers elaborated on WHEELS, an initiative of the Capital IIT Alumni Association, and working to integrate the skills, experience and contributions of thinkers, academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, philanthropists and government leaders in six areas of social development.

Gulab Bhavnani, Program Director of WHEELS listed the six needs they are addressing:

  1. Water: Provide clean, drinking water to citizens in urban and remote geographies.
  2. Health: Bring affordable healthcare for basic needs, especially in villages and where healthcare is scarce or not available.
  3. Energy: Use clean, green technology to deliver cheap energy to power light, cooking, heating and manufacturing.
  4. Education: Deliver affordable or free education to the masses, by applying technology to deliver practical learning by skilled teachers.
  5. Lifestyles: Create awareness for the need for sanitary environments.
  6. Security: Apply technology to effectively fight threats to society from cyber and physical terrorism.

With its mission statement defining “to facilitate the formation of socially conscious ventures for the benefit of citizens globally, by bringing together human capital and other necessary resources to successfully apply innovative solutions to society’s common problems,” WHEELS is also actively promoting collaboration between US government agencies and target country agencies.

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