A recent article about whether IITians need subsidy for their education has triggered an intense debate on how much IITians have actually helped the nation.

After Independence, it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who spearheaded the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology to provide trained technical personnel of international calibre to the nation. These men and women, it was hoped, would grow to become leaders in technology for newly independent India.

India hoped that the IIT system would, over time, be instrumental in creating "scientists and technologists who would engage in research, design and development to help make the nation towards self-reliance in her technological needs

Now, let us see how IITians have served this purpose of making the nation self-reliant in some critical areas.

1) It is not just one or two defence or aerospace projects in which India is falling behind

If you look at the entire fleet of Indian Air Force, how many of the technologies that we currently possess have been developed indigenously? Not a single squadron of our airforce, which has around 34 squadrons, contains indigenous jets.

Even our indigenously developed fighter jets don't fly on our own jet engines. The radars on our fighter jets aren't indigenous. The Airborne Early Warning and Control System that are developed don't have a 360 degree Active Electronic Scanned Array Radar. (It contains a Brazilian plane with Indian electronics).

It's not just one or two technologies: thrust vector nozzles, fly-by-wire technology, jet engines, radars, are all imported. Even the tyres for aircrafts were imported until recently.

We do not have a single private aeronautical company in our country that develops fighter aircraft. Even the jet training aircraft for the airforce are imported – basic trainers from Pilatus, Advanced Jets from BAE systems. This costs us a lot of foreign exchange.

2) How much of our Army is indigenous?

How many of our artillery systems are indigenously developed? Why is it that not a single artillery gun was developed in India till 2013? Why is it that the indigenously developed assault rifles face such huge problems? Why is it that we import even the communication systems for the armed forces?

When terrorists attacked the army camp in Kaluchak in 2002, killing 32, mostly women and children of army officers, our forces were unable to retaliate because they didn't have laser-guided bombs or night vision pods, and were waiting for them to be dispatched from Israel.

If one looks at the headlines in newspapers, like HC asks MOD response on INSAS RifleDelays hit Indo-Israel anti-missile systems; Army,Air Force vulnerable, one can understand the problems plaguing the armed forces. I wish the IITians would read newspapers once in a while.

By the simplistic logic one IITian had suggested, why waste money and time on something that can be easily imported. But how do you ensure that your forces are war-ready all the time with imported weapons?

3)  How much of our Navy is indigenous?

How many of our naval ships and submarines are indigenously developed, without foreign technology and collaboration? We import Surface-to-Air Missiles for our ships from Israel. We import engines for our indigenously developing aircraft carriers from companies like GE. We are still scouting for utility helicopters for the Indian Navy. We still do not possess the capability to build our own submarines.

While we are mired in bureaucratic procedures and age-old policies for the development and procurement of weapon systems, our armed forces have been crying for spares of these weapons systems.

We did not have the capability to make steel for our war machines until recently, and instead, we are happy that our best metallurgical engineers work in a company (started by IITians) that sells goods online.

 4) RAW has a critical shortage of technical officers

We are the largest exporter of software and software engineers in the world, and yet, the Research and Analysis Wing, which is our external intelligence agency, has a shortfall of 30% of the sanctioned crypt analysts, according to a report in The Hindu.

Our best engineers, working in places like Facebook and Google, would rather secure those networks than making India stronger in tackling terror, and cyber espionage.

5) How many of our telecommunication systems are indigenous?

We have a great telecommunication industry in India, but why is it that even a single telecommunication system isn't indigenous? Why does it give the government jitters to import Chinese telecom products from manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE? Do we have indigenous manufacturers with the calibre of the likes of CISCO, Ericsson, Alcalet-Lucent, Avaya or Juniper in India? The answer is an emphatic “no”. And yet, our IITians work in these companies and make them better each day.

Why can’t our best engineers create such industries in India?

6)  How much of our electrical equipment is indigenous?

How self-reliant is India in electrical equipment manufacturing? We still import power generators for our power plants. According to this report, out of the 48,000 MW of power generation capacity during the 11th Five Year plan, we have imported equipment for more than 18,000 MW of power generation.

As many experts will tell you, indigenisation is vital for our critical infrastructure.

7) How many of the electronic chips used in India are indigenous?

Electronic chips were the second-most highly valued imported items in the year 2013, second only to petroleum products. India imported electronic chips worth $100 billion in 2013, and by 2020, these imports are going to be more than $400 billion, surpassing the petroleum imports.

So next time, before giving an analysis of how much value IITians have created for the Indian economy, one should also analyse on how much value is lost because IITians haven't met their mandate of making the country self-reliant in technology.

Here are some points I'd like to reiterate:

I am not saying that all this work should have to be done only by the IITians. But I would have been more proud if any IITian claims that to have started a high-tech industry in aeronautics or telecommunication-equipment manufacturing.

This article was originally published on Saddahaq.com.