Anurag Mehra

Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering


Prof. Anurag Mehra is a Chemical Engineer. He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Bombay in 1991 and, in 2016, became an Associate Faculty at the Centre for Policy Studies. He is currently the Professor in Charge of IIT Bombay’s Centre for Liberal Education.

Prof. Mehra has been a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge; he has also been associated with many other institutions in various capacities: Summer Visiting Professor at IIM Bangalore, Summer Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. He has also been a Summer Visiting Scientist at Unilever.

His research interests in engineering are in the broad areas of reaction engineering, surface science, and nanomaterials, and his work has been published extensively. He has won many awards such as the INSA Young Scientist Medal of the Indian National Science Academy, Associateship of the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Marie Curie Fellowship of the European Commission, and the Excellence in Teaching Award at IIT Bombay. He is a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) and the National Academy of Sciences India (NASI). He has served as a member of the Department of Science & Technology (DST-SERB) Programme Advisory Committee on Chemical Engineering and was the Chair of the SERB Programme Advisory and Monitoring Committee on Carbon Sequestration. He has Chaired the SERB Committee on Early Career Research Awards and National Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Engineering Sciences) and was also a member of a sub-committee of the Planning Commission (12th Plan) on Student Financial Aid. He has also been a consultant to several industries.

Prof. Mehra has an abiding interest in political and social issues relating to education, labour, science & technology, and the digital economy. He has been involved in supervising the Technology Development Supervised Learning (TDSL) projects at the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA). He brings these interests and professional experience to CPS.

Holding several senior administrative positions at IIT Bombay, Prof. Mehra is responsible for initiating major administrative reforms in the Institute. He has headed the Computer Centre, the Department of Chemical Engineering, was the Professor In Charge of Administrative Planning & Services, and more.

Click here to visit his homepage at the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Areas of Interest

Topic A: The Significance and Role of Private EdTech in the Indian Education System

Research Area: Technology and Society

Description: Education Technology is considered to be “hot” and a much invested in sector because it is considered to be the next frontier for technology to capture. This sector is populated by MOOCs that are run by corporations (Coursera, Udemy) as well as by public entities (Swayam – India) though most of these serve the higher education sector. Youtube also contains millions of education tutorials and lectures run by dedicated channels. But most importantly there are education technology companies (Byju) that cater to the school sector, tuition and coaching classes which include those geared for competitive examinations.

In this study we propose to focus on the school sector and what kind of educational technology services are available to them. We will attempt to find out who uses these services in terms of socio-economic profiles, what is the correlation with school boards and specific competitive examinations.

We will also focus on the business models and practices pursued by these companies and what kind of impact they actually have on learning in individual and collective terms.

It is also proposed to examine what impact the existence of these EdTech companies have on brick and mortar schools as well as coaching classes.

Topic B: The Nature of Work and Employment in a Digital World: Employment Patterns & Career Trajectories of Graduates from Institutions of Higher Learning in India

Research Area: Digital Societies

Description: The relative stagnation in manufacturing world-wide, and a capture of a significant share of “hard” manufacture by China (and some other Asian nations) threatens initiatives like “Make in India”. In the digital context, the changes in the character of India’s large IT companies operating under conditions constrained by new age immigration restrictions also limits employment in IT industries. The overall rise of AI 2.0, automation and robotics provides the big-picture context in which work and employment are evolving.

In this study we propose to study how our institutions of higher learning, at different levels of “excellence”, are fitting into this larger picture. What are our graduates doing? Where do they find their first employment? How well does the work they do correlate with their core specializations? How long do they stick to these jobs? Are our institutions producing “relevant” experts?

We will frame and study many such questions about placements, jobs, wages, the relation of specialization to the nature of work, job fulfillment, the vagaries of the new employment markets, and so on.
This study requires significant field work, of surveying institutions and their graduates, and then situating this data in the larger context of contemporary capitalism.

Topic C: Manufactured Narratives: The Degradation of Political Discourse in the era of Social Media OR The Internet, Social Media and its Impact on Public Policy

Research Area: Digital Societies

Description: The internet and social media platforms provide an opportunity for millions of people to express their thoughts, indulge in endless hours of play and entertain themselves. A very significant section of the “connected” population is caught up in a never ending cycle of messaging, likes, and shares. While it is easy to see that a lot of these opportunities are liberating and “democratizing”, this new “technological culture”, of the constant intrusion of devices and software into our physical and mental spaces, produces subtle but profound “degrading” effects. These effects include how we deal with “real” people (e.g. family and “friends”); how we remain “distracted”, with terribly small attention spans; and most significantly, how the notions of rationality and truth are being altered (“post-truth”).

In this study, which will comprise an interdisciplinary mix of psychology, technology-culture and politics, we will explore some of these aspects, concentrating on:

  1. how, and to what extent in our own “cultures”, critical thinking and thoughtful (“deep”) expression are being replaced by these new “instant communication technologies”;
  2. how post truth narratives develop, based on the new belief systems that consider “truth” to be what is “liked”, challenging the meaning of facts and rationality;
  3. how this post-truth, accompanied by its armies of trolls and influencers, affects political discourse and policy formulations (e.g. nature of issues, economic priorities).

Some elements of this study will require field work and surveying to acquire data on the “digital habits” of people and their belief systems.

Academic Background

  • PhD (Tech), Bombay University (1987)
  • MChemEngg, Bombay University (1985)
  • BTech Chemical Engineering, IIT Kanpur (1983)

Courses Taught

(On Policy)

  • Technology, Culture, and Policy
  • Perspectives of Society, Science & Technology

Blogs and Op-eds

(Policy Relevant)

In Popular Media

Journal Articles

Other Relevant Work

  • Bridging the Digital & Learning Divide in Education in Unlock 1.0 , June 10 2020
  • Special Invited Lecture: “The Dismantling of Public Institutions and the End of History: The Case of Education”, at the International Conference on “Institution, Structure & Organization in Globalizing India: Science & Technology, Economy & Society”, January 20-21, 2012, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.