Published: 19th November 2019
Is whisteblower IIT Guwahati professor who filed 300 RTIs to expose corruption going to be sacked?
Rai claims that the admini has charged him with misconduct for sending an email to ISRO alleging corruption in the recruitment process but also because he has been a thorn in their flesh for a while
Even as the JNU students take over the streets in Delhi and bring the Parliament to a standstill, students in another campus are also rising. The students of IIT Guwahati took out a march yesterday to show their support to their professor, Brijesh Kumar Rai. The professor is believed to be on the verge of being fired from the institute after allegedly unearthing corruption scams on campus.
Rai is an assistant professor in the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering and has been in the limelight over the last few years for frequently pointing out instances of corruption in the institute. The professor claims that the administration called him for a final hearing on the charges against him and from their reaction and through other sources, he has come to believe he could soon be asked to resign from his post.
'Will never stop fighting'
"I don't even want to be here anymore actually. I've gone through so much harassment in the last few years that I feel like I should go anyway. But, I'm not going to stop fighting, so I will continue to challenge my termination," Rai said. The professor said that he has filed over 200 RTIs and has helped others file at least 100 RTIs, "In all about 300 RTIs easily," he says. He feels that as a responsible citizen of the country, he felt it was his duty to find out if corruption was taking place in the administration. And he says he did find it, a lot of it.
"There was a time when the administration hired over 50 employees illegally for 25 positions. They were hired by the VC simply because he knew them. The institute has many such instances where people have been hired even though they've not had the required qualifications or they are hired as temporary staff but kept on for three years so they become permanent. Illegal hires have been happening simply because they know the VC," Rai alleges and says he has enough and more evidence to prove this as well. The professor also claims that some positions in the faculty were 'sold for 10 lakh rupees'. "Nepotism plays a huge role in how things work here. People are hired even without advertising for those positions," Rai said.
Settle it with your boss. Really?
However, what is worse for Rai is that even when he has tried to reach out to the MHRD and other government officials to report on these issues, the case gets directed to the same authorities he has complained against, including the IIT Guwahati VC. "The VC has the power to take the ultimate decision, so how can I be guaranteed any justice," the professor questions. "The MHRD took cognisance of my case and then forwarded it to the person against who the complaint is. Waited for two years for the MHRD to look into it and finally, it went to the person I had complained against," Rai tells us. He also accused the VC of spending over 40 lakh rupees on renovating his bungalow and office and claims he has been getting targetted for bringing up these issues.
Corruption that's space-high, he says
According to the latest case against Rai, the administration has charged him with misconduct for sending an email to ISRO alleging corruption in the recruitment process. In the show cause, the institute has charged Rai under four sections — that Rai contacted ISRO without keeping the IIT administration in the loop, so he didn't "follow protocol", secondly, his action was 'unbecoming of a faculty member', thirdly, Rai has caused embarrassment to the institute and its relationship with ISRO and finally, Rai has been accused of trying to defame the institute by bringing up these serious allegations.
In his defence regarding the email to the ISRO chairman, Rai said that it cannot be considered as a publication because he had only sent the mail to stakeholders. "I am a victim of a conspiracy. I am being punished for opposing corruption. All the people involved in this disciplinary proceeding must be severely punished so that they do not repeat such harassment to any other employee," Rai said. On the accusation of acting in a manner that is 'unbecoming of a faculty' Rai writes in his letter, "I did the right thing to report an alleged matter of corruption. Every Indian should do such an act. How can such an act be unbecoming of a government servant? Rather, not reporting an incident of an alleged corruption would constitute unbecoming of a government servant."
"Every year, we are asked by the CVC to make a pledge that we will report incidences of corruption to the appropriate authorities. Is it a trap to implicate employees? I fulfilled my pledge by reporting an alleged case of corruption to first Dean of Research and Development, and when he did not respond then I reported the incident to the then director of IIT Guwahati and when he also did not respond I reported the matter to the ISRO Chairman because the alleged corruption was related to project staff recruitment in an ISRO funded project. Am I not a fit person to retain in service because I reported an alleged case of corruption?" Rai questioned in his letter to the Board of Governors.
The sultan of show-cause notices
Rai said he received three show-cause notices on the same day and was not given extra time to make his presentation to the committee. " I would like to make it abundantly clear that if my representations are not found satisfactory it is due to not providing me sufficient time to make proper representation. I am shocked and appalled to receive the above-mentioned show-cause notice. I had not imagined even in my wildest dream that BoG will consider me not a fit person to retain in service because I reported an incident which, prima facie, appears to be a case of corruption," the assistant professor said.
Speaking about the Guwahati High Court's order in this regard, Rai said that the Court had observed that he was issued a show-cause notice without having any authority to do so," IIT Guwahati Director Prof TG Sitharam, using this show cause notice as an excuse, placed me under suspension which was completely illegal and unjustified. I have faced severe harassment and humiliation due to my illegal suspension. It has caused mental injury to me."
He also added that it was members of the administration who should be issued a notice for harassing him, "For threatening a senior professor, for criminal intimidation to my wife in my absence, for putting undue pressure on a High Power Committee member to write adverse report against me, for threatening a student, for defaming the Institute through an interview in a five star hotel, for trying to cover up various cases of corruption, for using an official car for his personal purpose and many other alleged crimes committed by him."
Corruption - and what comes after
Rai says that even though he doesn't expect any justice, he wants students in IITs to know that there is corruption on campus. Students in large numbers came out to support him and as the issue grows, many students from across campuses have also reached out to him in support.
"I will pursue the case legally if it comes to that. I will take my termination to court," the professor said.
We reached out to IIT Guwahati for a comment on the issue and this is what they had to say — IIT Guwahati wishes to clarify that the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against Dr. BK Rai, Assistant Professor in the EEE Department, are to investigate the violations of code of conduct rules of the institute and several complaints received against him through enquiry as per procedures. No decision on his employment has been communicated to Dr. BK Rai till date from the institute.
Media reports on this issue claiming otherwise are based on mere speculation and false information that are being spread. This attempt to divert the main issue and gain public sympathy is intentionally being done to tarnish the reputation of the Institute and its administrators and influencing the decision-making process. The administration of IIT Guwahati humbly requests the media to refrain from publishing such reports.
(This copy was updated with the response from IIT Guwahati)