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Er...who is the President of India?
Indrani Roy Mitra in Mumbai
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December 23, 2006 19:13 IST

In most of the interviews conducted prior to the PanIIT Global Conference, many of the interviewees, all former IIT-ians, told this correspondent how the Indian Institute of Technology inculcated into them a sense of discipline and 'superb' organisational skills.

But the inaugural day of the IIT conference held at Mumbai's Bandra-Kurla Complex was quite a let down as far as logistics were concerned. Discipline seemed to have been thrown out of the window and chaos reigned supreme.

Who is the President of India?

Tom Alter, Bollywood's sole firang was entrusted with the charge of compering. Apart from drawing an inane analogy between Indian Institute of Technology and the Film and Television Institute of India, he goofed up referring to the President of India twice -- first as Dr APJ Abul Kalam Azad and second as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Azad.

PanIIT 2006 Global Conference

However, before the sense of disgust could sink in, he took the stage again to rectify himself. One expects more professionalism from someone as veteran as you, Mr Alter.

Media clueless

The most suffered lot were the media representatives. Because of strict security arrangements owing to the President's visit, they were given special CID identity cards and were assertively informed that it (the card) would ensure their entry everywhere.

But on attempting to enter the first hall, they were told to get another form of gate pass, a dangler with the word 'media' typed on it. The woes did not end here. This correspondent had to wait for a couple of hours to get the 'media pass', as the first lost was over and it took time for them to print and ready a second lot.

The media persons were neither greeted with the customary kit, nor were given a detailed schedule of the event. So though the first day's events all took place in one particular hall, journalists left the venue without any information about which event would take place in which hall on the second day. On questioning the public relation people, 'come here early tomorrow' was the only answer one could get.

Security pains

I was told by a colleague that those intending to attend the President's address had to deposit their bags and cell phones (only wallets and reporters' notebooks were allowed) with the security.

One not only had to stand in long queues for the same, collecting them again at the end of the event seemed even more painful. Because of some unknown reasons, we were asked to stand at a distance from the baggage counter while the volunteers took ages to find our belongings. As no numbered tags were given to us, they had to go through each and every baggage and mobile manually before handing them over to their owners.

Missing link

No one, including some of the organisers with prominent badges and all, could tell us what was happening where, if there was a delay or a change in schedule.

Announcements were being made but they were not audible from all corners. Everybody seemed to be in a hurry for some unknown reason. There were no answers to questions like 'When will George Soros come; will he address the media; will he rest at the speakers' lounge before addressing the audience?' While we were informed that Soros will address the audience, he only took part in a rushed question answer session.

'Inspire, Involve and Transform' India is the theme of this year's IIT conference. Sounds impressive but going by the organisational standards of the event, one has every reason to doubt how far will it be productive in building a newer India.

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