Published: 29th October 2022
IIIT Allahabad: PhD scholar alleges harassment, discrimination at the hands of faculty
Sarthak Sengupta says that he has been trying to obtain a PhD degree, but has been constantly denied the same for the last six months
Struggling to get an appointment for his pre-thesis seminar, Sarthak Sengupta, a PhD scholar from the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Allahabad, claims that he is facing "discrimination, harassment and humiliation" at the hands of some of his professors. The scholar says that he has been trying to acquire his PhD degree for six months now.
To obtain a degree at IIIT Allahabad, Sarthak explains that a scholar has to undergo a three-phased process. "First, an open pre-thesis submission seminar, then the thesis submission and the final defence viva at the end are conducted. I have not been able to get a date scheduled for my open seminar," he said.
He informs that there is a Doctoral Committee which approves the date for this seminar. "April 20 was selected as my open seminar date by this committee. At the time, no one objected. However, on April 19, Professor Vijayshri Tewari, who was not on the committee at the time I sought its approval, came up and objected to the seminar," he alleged.
The student further alleged that the objection cropped up due to internal rivalry. Though Sarthak approached all the authorities who could help, including the Grievance Cell, he received no response. "Vijayshri ma'am kept dismissing my requests by asking me unnecessary questions regarding my academics," the scholar tells.
It may be noted that Professor Vijayshri, who was the acting Registrar of IIIT Allahabad, is the daughter of Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Pramod Tewari. She was accused in a plagiarism row with the HRD (Human Resource Development) Ministry last month, as per a report by the Times of India. "She was removed from her post as the acting Registrar recently," said Sarthak, adding, "Now the Director of MNNIT Allahabad (Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology) is the acting Director, and it was after his appointment that I was allowed a meeting with the Grievance Cell."
"However, the Grievance Cell disposed of my case. I had alleged harassment by the professor and the Cell said since there is no harassment, the matter is closed. Nothing about the delay in my PhD was done," he said further.
When EdexLive reached out to Madhavendra Mishra, Chairman, Grievance Cell, IIIT Allahabad, he confirmed the fact. "A complaint was received not about delay per se, but harassment, which was not tenable, so it was disposed off. There are some statutory criteria to be met for granting a PhD degree. The Dean of Research and Development would be able to tell more about the student's situation."
But when contacted, Professor Manish Goswami, Dean of R&D at the institute, said that he was not available for a comment on the situation. Meanwhile, Sarthak claims that another scholar who had fewer number of publications than him had been awarded a PhD degree, but he is not even able to get an open seminar scheduled for him. Thus he alleges discrimination.
"I am also being harassed as the college has been delaying the process without any valid reason. And this is humiliation as well since other fellows at the institute keep asking me when I'll complete my PhD," Sarthak stated. He added that there is no clarity from the administration as to when he will be able to present his thesis at the open seminar.
Dr Lal Chandra Vishwakarma, President of AIRSA (All India Research Scholars Association), says, "Such issues have been reported across India. AIRSA has solved 8-10 matters in the recent past. I can remember similar issues at IIIM (Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine) Jammu and NIPER (National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research) Raebareli."
The President continued, "I have written to the government many times proposing a solution to prevent such cases. A community should be constituted by the government, which visits the institutes and scientific bodies where scholars work from time to time. The community should work towards keeping such incidents in check."
Dr Vishwakarma opines that such a community should be an independent body which scholars can approach if they face any issues without any hesitation. "As of now, many scholars are pressurised by the professors and institutions into shutting up about such incidents. Only a few come forward. This hampers the research and development sector."