Published: 24th January 2020
Got a PhD from a CSIR institute? You can't get a job in some NITs. This is why
A few NITs in the country accept candidates for the faculty position, only if they have at least one degree from a CFTI. No CSIR institutes are included in the list of CFTIs
In July 2019, Debarati Mukherjee, a Post Doctoral fellow at IIT Guwahati, applied for the post of an Assistant Professor in the Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology (SVNIT), Surat. In March, she was awarded a PhD by Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute (CGCRI), Kolkata, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute under the Ministry of Science and Technology. However, a few weeks later, Debarati received a letter from the NIT saying that her application was rejected because she didn't have any degree from a Centrally Funded Technical Institute (CFTI).
To her surprise, she then noticed that the list of CFTIs does not mention any CSIR institutes nor did it 'recognise' institutes like National Center For Biological Sciences, National Centre for Radio Astrophysics and International Centre for Theoretical Sciences. Instead, the list is confined to institutes under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The faculty recruitment norms of the SVNIT drafted in July 2019 says that at least one of the qualifying degrees from a "centrally funded Institution (CFTI) / Institute of repute (National/ International) is mandatory". "This is unfair. I have written a letter to the CSIR head and the concerned authorities about this. I have completed my MTech and PhD from a CSIR institute," says Debarati. She's applied for the position of an Assistant Professor in a few other NITs too. "I pursued research hoping to become an academic someday. But that looks like a tough deal now," she says.
If sources are to be believed, NIT Jalandhar, NIT Allahabad and NIT Warangal too did not accept candidates who do not have at least one of their degrees from a CFTI for a faculty position. Research scholars from CSIR institutes have written a letter, terming this 'Institutional Racism'. "Such criterion is against the democratic values of providing equal opportunities to all the candidates and is a clear case of Institutional Racism. Faculty recruitment should be based on comparative merit of individuals and their professional credentials not on the reputation of the institute and such surrogacy of an institution to judge the eligibility for a position would not survive on legal scrutiny as mentioned earlier," it reads. It also asks the MHRD to take required actions against this situation.
But it is not just a few scholars who have been affected. The Research Scholars of India have also written to the Dr Rajender Singh Sangwan, Director, Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research with a copy to the Prime Minister, MHRD, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and the Director-General of CSIR in this matter. They point out several reasons why this policy needs to be relooked at. "There are autonomous, reputed bodies under the Government of India who award degrees in engineering but do not come under the definition of CFTI, such as HBNI/DAE, AcSIR/CSIR, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), etc. Many of the institutions are institutions of excellence or institutions of national importance on par with IIT/NIT and established by Act of Parliament," states the letter. "The Centrally Funded Technical Institutions themselves manage departments of Applied Sciences, which are assisting the departments of engineering and technology in research works. In this current day and age, the teaching and research works are increasingly interdisciplinary and topics are quite often common between science and engineering departments."
Many of the candidates have had their PhD or Post-doctoral research selected and conducted based on broad research area rather than any department or institute — the quality of publication and laboratory resources are more important than the ranking or category of the institute from which the person has pursued his degree or research, says the letter. "There exists a significant overlap between certain branches of science and engineering — computer science/engineering, bio-sciences/technology, chemistry/chemical engineering/materials science/metallurgy, electronics/physics to name a few examples. It is completely likely that candidates with good research in pure or applied technology may come from any of the aforementioned backgrounds," adds the letter.
The Research Scholars of India say that the policy of mandating a degree or post-doctoral research experience from a CFTI is "not only detrimental to the development of science and technology in India but also hampers the flow of knowledge between graduates and post-docs of reputed Indian institutes which are equally capable as any of the CFTIs". There is no reason, they believe, which explains why a graduate of CSIR, DAE or IISc will be rejected on the basis of their organisation not being a CFTI when it is a well-known fact all over the world that these are institutions of international reputation. "We further fear that such kind of rules and regulations will prove problematic for job prospects of young graduates as it limits the institutions to which they are eligible for applying and further creates a closed eco-system wherein graduates of specific institutes may only apply to specific class of institutions, which is against the concept of equal opportunity is afforded to all citizens by the Constitution of India," the letter says, adding, "We humbly request the concerned authority to take appropriate action in the matter and direct the NIT Council to ensure that there is no discrimination in any NIT on the basis of Institution/University from where the prospective candidates have pursued their education from, but that recruitment is done on the basis of merits of research work or publications along with the appropriate criteria for interview which would not be dependent on the institution from where one has pursued his degrees and research."
Researchers tell us that the CSIR Director Shekhar C Mande is also aware of the issue. On January 16, he tweeted, "I and Prof Sanwan (AcSIR Director Dr Rajender Singh Sangwan) have formally written to concerned people at the highest level, one Director of NIT has responded today positively promising to take corrective action. Hopefully, this ordeal is over."
We reached out to Dr Sivaji Chakravorti, Director, NIT Calicut who is believed to have chaired a meeting that listed out the CFTIs, seeking the reason for not mentioning CSIR institutes. This copy will be updated once he responds.
(With inputs from Prajanma Das)