Published: 08th December 2020
Not a single ST student was admitted in 11 depts at IIT Bombay the last five years, RTI reveals
Only 1.6 per cent were from ST category and 7.5 per cent were from SC category, and 19.2 per cent were from OBC category, the APPSC has found
According to information accessed by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) from IIT Bombay through an RTI, between 2015 and 2019, out of 26 departments, 11 of them did not admit a single ST student. These departments include Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Climate Studies, Mathematics etc. With regard to SC students three departments admitted only one SC student and two, SJM School of Management and Centre of Research Engineering did not admit any SC students at all.
However, Prof Amitava De, the Dean of Academic Programmes, IIT Bombay maintain that the institute has followed all the reservation norms in letter and spirit. But the APPSC also claims that there hasn’t been a single department that correctly followed the reservation norms during this period — five departments admitted less than five OBC students in the last five years and one did not admit any student from the community and Of the 2,874 candidates selected for PhD, only 1.6 per cent were ST candidates and 7.5 per cent were SC candidates and 19.2 per cent were OBC candidates. In comparison, 71.6 per cent were from the general category.
According to reservation norms, the OBCs have 27 per cent reservation while SC and ST have 15 and 7.5 percent respectively. The APPSC says that the institute has claimed that this shortfall is due to the cut-off mark as per the GoI, “But they did not clarify what the guidelines devised by the GoI in the case of cut off marks for admission are. The reservation policy has itself been introduced in IITs only much later than it was in other institutions, which is in 1973. The way the cut-off marks function now, is in addition to the basic eligibility criteria, almost a deterrent for ST, SC and OBC students from joining the institute at all, “ the APPSC wrote in their statement on the issue.
A poster by the APPSC
According to the RTI, five departments admitted less than five OBC students in the last five years and one did not admit any student from the community. Out of the 8827 SC students who applied, only 216 were admitted in the last five years. Three departments admitted only one SC student and two did not admit any SC students. And out of 1522 ST students who applied, only 47 were admitted in the last five years.
But the Association claims that there has been a systemic practice of exclusion across all the IITs, “This is visible in the number of SC/ST/OBC students being admitted, as the data submitted by Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in the Parliament suggests. We strongly demand the removal of this additional cut-off and the following of the reservation policy in its true spirit,” they demanded.
Speaking to Edex, an APPSC spokesperson said that the suicide of Aniket Ambhore, in 2014, which allegedly was caused due to caste-based discrimination has been central to how they define the functioning of the Association. It was also one of the reasons, the APPSC has been working towards bringing out the numbers and demanding better representation in the student population, “After protests, there was a three-member committee formed to look into the suicide. There are many issues still unresolved from those days and APPSC wanted to act on them in a coherent manner. Last year, after the suicide of Fathima Lateef (student of IIT Madras), the discussion on discrimination on campus again sprang up. Where via the forum of IIT Bombay For Justice, formed by four organisations coming together, we asked specific questions related to discrimination on campus to SC/ST cell, to which we never received satisfactory answers. In a parallel discussion with the student organisation in IIT Madras, the idea of filling an RTI came up.” Subsequently, the APPSC decided to file RTIs to get the status of implementation of reservation policy in PhD admissions.
The students accuse the institute of not being responsive, “Initially the administration showed interest in meeting with us, but since then, they have been ignoring us, you can see the mail we sent. Faculties are also not responding much.”
Not much has come of it though. “Despite constant follow-ups by the organisation, the institute has not yet discussed the reservation violations. The SC/ST student cell has responded that issues related to reservation violations do not come under their purview. We have repeatedly approached the administration since last July for a meeting, but they have declined to discuss this grave violation of reservation policy,” the APPSC said.
“The MHRD and the UGC mandate that if the institute fails to implement the stipulated reservation for a year, they are required to re-advertise the seats, call for admissions again, and if they still fail to fulfill the required number of seats, they should carry forward those seats into the subsequent year. IIT Bombay should explain why they haven't been following any of these mechanisms, despite seats being left vacant for years,” the students demand to know.
"Since IITs are being projected as Institutes of Eminence and they are entranced in the logic of 'merit', what this cut-off mark does is put a lot of power in the hands of the select committee, so even if a candidate is eligible to appear for the exam, the committee can reject a student by providing them a score less than the cut-off. In many of the IITs departments, there is no score given for the interview they just get told - 'yes' or 'no'. Over the years since 1973, how many seats have been denied to SC/ST students? And how many reserved for OBCs have remained vacant since 2008? All IITs have to come forward and make the number public. That will be the first tiny step towards being accountable and changing things. Once that number is known, a mechanism can be devised to fill up the seats," the student opines.
The student alleges that there is an opaqueness in the admission procedure of IITs, “Unless you fill an RTI and get the information, you don't know to what degree the reservation norm is being violated or how many students from which all categories are being selected in various departments. This opacity gives a shield to the IITs and doesn't create public awareness about the violating practice happening on campus. They need to publish details of selected candidates, the number of vacancies each year, department, and category wise on their website. It should also reflect in their advertisements about the seats.”
The APPSC representative said that another problem is that the admission procedures, number of rounds, cut offs and so on also vary from department to department, making it difficult to raise questions and analyse numbers, “This further helps distribute the blame and evade accountability. There is an absence of a common periodical monitoring of the implementation of reservation policy each semester.”
“After much demand from student organisations and based on the AK Suresh Committee's recommendation, an SC/ST Student Cell was formed in IIT Bombay. This Cell functions as a grievance addressing body, and there is no way it conducts or attempts to do sensitisation on campus, nor does it try to reach out to students so they could approach the Cell in case of need. In our repeated correspondence with the Cell, they haven't given any satisfactory response to our queries, nor have they changed their functioning in any sort. It is the most invisible Cell of the campus. We must understand even this kind of Cell is not there in most of the IITs. What IITs need to do is set up a proper functioning Cell in all its campuses, reachable to students, and conduct programs to better the conscience of students and more so of the faculties. One thing via the curriculum could be done is to introduce a course on caste where students and faculties must attend it once in their stay on campus. It is the BTech and MTech students of various IITs that are potential candidates for the PhD If the campus practices are more democratic and sensitive to caste and other forms of discrimination, more students will apply for the various courses,” he recommends.
When we reached out to Prof Amitava De, the dean of Academic Programmes, we were told that the Institute is following all the reservation norms, "The institute has followed all the reservation norms in letter and spirit. Only candidates who clear the cut-offs set by each department are admitted to PhD programmes. Over and above the eligibility criteria, candidates are required to qualify through a test and/ or interview. The cut-offs for each birth category is fixed as per the GoI norms. To be eligible for the final admission offer, a candidate must score marks above the set cut-off mark. The admission committee of each academic unit checks and monitors the admission process to check for biases."