Student groups slam Education Ministry committee’s recommendation to exempt IITs from reservations in faculty hiring

The committee constituted in April of this year included eight members with the Chairperson being Prof V Ramgopal Rao, Director of IIT Delhi
Representative Image
Representative Image

A recent RTI has revealed that the committee constituted by the Ministry of Education to ensure effective implementation of reservation in the IITs has recommended scrapping of faculty reservations. The committee has recommended that IITs be recognised as ‘Institutes of Excellence’ and exempted from reservation policies under the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act (CEI Act) of 2019. This has left many student groups enraged.

The committee constituted in April of this year included eight members with the Chairperson being Prof V Ramgopal Rao, Director of IIT Delhi. While recognising that reserved PhD seats are not getting filled which is why faculty from marginalised communities are not getting opportunities, the committee still suggested that the CEI Act be implemented in IITs. The Committee noted that admission to the academic programmes at all levels (UG and PG) in IITs are in consonance with the reservation guidelines of the government as issued from time to time and hence need not be remarked on, it needs to be pointed out that the IITs have implemented a supernumerary reservation of seats to achieve the target of 20 percent reservation of women, which is above and beyond that mandated by reservation policies. “In order to compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching, a system emphasising targeted goals over a period of time, rather than specific quotas, to address diversity issues through outreach campaigns, targeted recruitment etc is recommended. Towards this, the CEI Act of 2019 may be implemented,” the committee said in its report.

“Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance under an Act of Parliament, IITs ought to be listed under the CEI Act for exemption from reservations. This must be immediately reconsidered for inclusion of IITs in the schedule taking into account the nature of these institutions may be vested with their respective board of governors to deal with as per resolution, statutes and bylaws,” the committee said.

In case their recommendation is not implemented, the committee suggests that the posts of associate professor and professor shall be exempted from reservation while posts of assistant professor at grade one and two would have reservation. They also suggest special recruitment drives. The request to be exempted from reservation was also raised by the Directors of IIMs in January this year with the same reason, that they be included in the list of Institutes of Excellence.

The Students Federation of India has raised their voice against the committee’s recommendation, “We firmly believe this to be a dangerous precedent and fear that more institutions might clamour for such exemptions from the reservation policy under the garb of preserving eliteness and meritocracy. Elite institution’s status in this country is very much tied to notions of their students and faculty belonging to economically advanced groups, privileged caste and social backgrounds, westernised education etc. Exorbitant fees and its periodic hike have deprived the access to these institutions for common people. Consenting to this demand (for exemption) will further deteriorate the efforts to diversify and democratise these institutions through reservations,” they said in a statement.

The SFI pointed out that the selection process at IITs needed serious revaluation and revamp for understanding its inadequacy in ensuring social representation at all stages of the selection, “There is no provision for ensuring faculty representatives from the SC/ST/OBC communities in the selection panels at present. The chances of hidden biases based on casteism or elitism cannot be discounted,” they asserted.

They also said that the top posts could not be exempt from reservation, “Ensuring adequate faculty representation from the backward classes and the marginalised groups is necessary for achieving an inclusive learning atmosphere in the campuses. The government should propose measures to IITs to improve the social representation at Professorship and Associate Professorship positions since the majority of such positions in IITs are exempt from reservation by the existing law,” the student group urged.

IIT Bombay's Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle also showed their disapproval of the committee's recommendation, "Ironically the committee formed to study the violation of reservation norms in IITs has requested the government to add IITs to the class of reservation-exempted institutions in the country. The recommendation was especially on exempting IITs from fulfilling reservation norms in teaching faculty recruitment. Instead of highlighting wrongs in the existing selection process and recommending ways to correct those, the committee carries their casteist ignorance and leaves the blame on the candidates from reserved categories for not being 'qualified enough'."

The APPSC also criticised the committee's take on why PhD seats are not getting filled, "There exists sufficient data to suggest that the lack of qualified candidates from the reserved categories was never a reason for their lack of admissions in PhD programmes at the IITs. It is the cut-off mark that is used to deny entry to the eligible SC/ST/OBC students in campuses like IITs for years.

The Committee report further suggests improving the social representation at the Ph.D. level through a predoctoral training program of two years. The report specifies that there is no guarantee that all those who opt for a two-year training shall be selected to do Ph.D. at IITs. The solution offered and how the committee went about analyzing the problem shows the committee's lack of seriousness towards the issue and the current changes in the education sector."

The All India OBC Students Association also 'strongly condemned' the report and accused it of violating the constitution. They demanded that the Ministry of Education should reject the report and constitute a new committee with better representation from SC,ST, OBC communities, "Let us make the IITs more diverse and inclusive."

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