MUMBAI, India – A half hour before the clock strikes 12, India's top technology institute pulls the plug on Internet access in students' dorm rooms.
Attend classes, turn out for sports, and socialize — that is the Indian Institute of Technology's message to students, many of whom were showing up for class bleary-eyed, if it all, after late nights spent Internet surfing and gaming.
"We found attendance for the first lecture at 8:30 a.m. was falling," said Aruna Thosar-Dixit, an IIT spokeswoman. "Students were not alert, they were sleepy, some were even sleeping."
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The ban has been in force for the past week at the Mumbai IIT, one of seven prestigious engineering and technology institutes in the country.
Established by the federal government in 1951, the IITs function autonomously. Most graduates go on to work with top multinational companies in India and abroad.
The institutes provide free Internet connections in dorm rooms as well as software labs. But since March 13, access has been blocked from 11:30 p.m.-12:30 p.m. in individual dorms. The ban targets online gamers on the Mumbai campus and those who download movies.
Professors found students spent more time on the Internet than socializing and attending sports and cultural functions, Thosar-Dixit said.
Predictably enough, students are upset.
"It's true some students are addicted to gaming, so a partial ban was required, but this long a duration will hit all students," said second-year student S. Saurabh.
He said fewer students would complain if the ban began at 1 a.m. and lasted until early the next morning.
Former student Manesh Patel, now employed with a top business consulting firm, said pulling the plug on the Internet will only hurt students working on school projects.
Besides, he said, these are the brightest tech minds in the country, and they'll find ways to circumvent the rules. "I don't think it will change things much ... Hard-core gamers will continue no matter what," said Patel.
The Mumbai institute will review its ban after a month, and says it's open to suggestions from student representatives.