Jul 5, 2008

India - IIT Heads reject quota for Faculty

MUMBAI: IIT directors are doing a Venugopal. The seven IIT heads have expressed their dissent against implementing reservations for faculty appointments and have decided to wrestle with the Union HRD ministry over the issue, just like the former AIIMS boss who took on Health Minister S Ramadoss. On Friday, the directors who met in New Delhi at the meeting of the standing committee of the IIT council (SCIC), took a tough stand against the HRD ministry's recent order that there should be reservations for teaching posts in the IITs. "We are all against reservations for faculty appointments. The IIT council is now going to take up the matter with the ministry. We have demanded that IITs be considered on par with other institutes of national importance, where there are no such reservations," said a director on condition of anonymity. Another IIT director who did not want to be quoted said they had a "lengthy discussion on the issue of faculty reservations and the result was rather positive". Taking a tough stand, most directors vetoed faculty reservations and stated that the government should revoke the decision. Institutes of national importance include those like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Harish-Chandra Research Institute. The June 9 government diktat sent to all IITs states that 15%, 7.5% and 27% teaching positions be reserved for SC, ST and OBC categories respectively. Presently, IITs have reservations for backward category candidates only in administrative posts, from attendants to the level of deputy registrar. According to the order, posts must be reserved for lecturers and assistant professors in all subjects of science and technology. In other areas, like management, social sciences and humanities, reservations should be applied up to the professor level, the seniormost position. When contacted, M Anandakrishnan, chairman of the board of governors at IIT-Kanpur and also on the council, said he was not comfortable discussing the "internal matter" at this stage, as the issue was "extremely sensitive". Sources said the issue of faculty reservations was not taken up earlier by the IIT council and the order was thrust upon the directors by the ministry. Besides the seven directors and Anandakrishnan, SCIC also has C N R Rao, principal scientific adviser to the PM. The government's decision to have reservations for faculty in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has evoked strong, negative reactions from the alumni as well as current students. Some prominent alumni, now on the board of governors of various IITs, took up the matter individually with the respective directors, only to find that the issue had not even been discussed in the IIT Council and the decision was being thrust by the Union human resources development ministry. IIT-Bombay alumnus Nandan Nilekani said: "I think this is a very unfortunate decision. Matters of such strategic importance must be discussed in the IIT Council but, regrettably, the council has not met even once in the entire duration this government was in power." The government diktat to the IITs says 15%, 7.5% and 27% quota in teaching positions be reserved for the SC, ST and OBC categories, respectively, with immediate effect. The IITs currently have reservations for backward category candidates for their administrative posts, from attendants to the level of deputy registrar. Nilekani, who is on the IIT-B board of governors, feels that higher education in India needs a complete overhaul. "Momentous decisions are taken without consultation and communicated by junior bureaucrats. Our higher education needs a complete revamp, just like the 'licence permit raj' was lifted in 1991. The recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission on Higher Education should be implemented immediately." Nilekani, one of the founders of Infosys, who contributed a generous purse to his alma mater, said that he learnt the most important lessons of his life on the Powai campus. A senior professor from IIT-Delhi said several alumni have expressed their concerns and willingness to talk the issue out with the government. "Students, current and former, know that IITs are what they are because of the kind of teaching that goes on here. Faculty members are the pillars of the IITs and these institutions will crumble if they are recruited on the basis of anything but merit,’’ he said. Another alumnus, Mastek chairman Ashank Desai, pointed out that the IITs stood for excellence and they must be given the autonomy to bloom. Students and alumni are holding a candlelight protest march in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore on Saturday evening. "To be a faculty at IIT, you need to have a PhD. Some institutes even prefer candidates with at least five years of work experience. No one can remain poor after that. Reservation for faculty is a politically motivated decision and it will degrade the IIT system," IIT-B student Neeraj Jain said

No comments: