Published: 17th November 2023
Are IIT recruiters asking for SC/ST/OBC students' JEE rank, community? Here's what companies, IITs say
Students from other categories are apprehensive regarding such an inquiry and question if their merit will be weighed down by the general rank obtained during the JEE entrance
It is placement season for most of the final-year students at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). This time as well, the institutes are ready to grant a grand reception to hundreds of both global and home-grown companies but a recent round of allegations against the placement process of the companies has put to scrutiny the policies employed by these enterprises for recruitment.
Companies such as L&T (Larsen and Toubro), Merilytics, Navi Technologies, Niva Bupa Insurance, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) by Tata Group of Companies, and others have allegedly placed a criterion where students need to enter details like the community they belong to and details such as their General JEE (Joint Entrance Examination)/Advanced rank.
The requirement of such details can be considered a violation of the corporate ethics these companies preach, according to Dheeraj Singh, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and IIM Calcutta, who is also the founder of an online forum with the name Global IIT SC/ST (Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe) Alumni Support Group. But what do these companies have to say about it?
Is it truly fair?
EdexLive reached out to L&T for a statement regarding the speculations about the company's recruitment process. Here is what they said, "L&T is committed to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace, upholding the principles of equal opportunity and non-discrimination based on factors such as caste, creed, colour, or sexual orientation..."
It further adds that such allegations are directed at defacing the reputation of the organisation as per the statement made by Sumeet Chatterjee, Chief Communications Officer, Larsen & Toubro. "...We vehemently reject any allegations that suggest otherwise, as they constitute a gross misrepresentation of the facts. It is our belief that such claims may be driven by an intention to tarnish the sterling reputation we have diligently built over several decades. At L&T, we remain steadfast in our dedication to maintaining a workplace that is fair, inclusive, and built on a foundation of trust and respect for all..."
Although the company states that they have maintained fair standards of recruitment, an online placement portal that was functioned for the students to register themselves for the process, mentioned "Community" as their criterion. Although it is to be noted that this was not a requirement, the mere mention of it can be argued to hint towards bearing a discriminatory stance as such conditions remotely come under the category of requirements to identify a meritorious candidate.
Another private bank, one of the recruiting companies at these IITs, shared a statement with EdexLive against such allegations levelled against it and asserts that they do not inquire into the applicant's social background.
“We would like to clarify that the Bank does not ask candidates from IITs regarding their rank in JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced exams. Further, we would like to categorically state that we do not discriminate between applicants, based on their social background.”
Why should this be concerning?
As per one testimony of a student submitted to the alumni forum: "...I personally am afraid if I mention anywhere that I do not have a general rank but a category rank, they won't select me for further process..." The student further goes on to claim that his category and the rank that they had secured while appearing for the JEE entrance exam, might not provide him with an opportunity to appear for better placements. "...I have worked hard and have a CGPA of 7.9 ... and seeing such things where I will be judged based on category is very disheartening for me."
The President of the All India OBC Students' Association, Kiran Kumar Gowd, says, "Such categorical discrimination is faced by these students during the entry-level, further during their course, and again when they are exiting the university, and this is extremely problematic." On students facing harassment and discrimination, he alleges that this is a cycle that seems to have no end for the students, from the beginning to the end.
Gowd questions such claimants of diversity and inclusive policies, whereas, the internal politics of a few companies differ from what they allege. "If it is taken to be a positive step utilised by these companies to know about a student's category and further put it to good use, this must be inquired after the end of the process and not in the beginning. Merit and hard work of these students should not be discredited."
Are the IITs sharing personal data with these companies?
Dheeraj Singh, alleges that not only are these IITs allowing these companies to regulate placement drives without keeping a formal check on them, but there also has been speculation of information leak to these companies.
According to Singh, students shared the way IIT Kanpur is profiling the students as per category and rank details. A mail forwarded to Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Justice, National Commission of SC (NCSC), National Commission of ST (NCST), Prof Sameer Khandekar, Dean of Students Affairs, and Chairman, SPO (Students' Placement Office), Prof Raju Gupta, IIT Kanpur, it has been alleged by Singh that relaying of such sensitive information to recruiting companies is nonetheless a discriminatory stance used against them and has been mentally affecting the students as they are apprehensive regarding the placement procedure, and their future.
Singh also urges the institutions to release caste-wise students' placement data for the last three years categorised into registered, placed, and not-placed, to be transparent about the placement process. Via his online forum, which provides mentorship to final-year IIT students appearing for placements and also to students belonging to the SC/ST community, he alleges that twenty such students were unable to land a job. "This year, we have helped 20 such unemployed students find jobs after they graduated from IIT Kanpur but failed to receive any support from the institute which is focused on general category placements."
In a conversation with EdexLive, Singh says that equating merit with category is a blatant form of discrimination, and should be checked immediately. "Discrimination is a systemic thing and has to be eradicated to provide fair and equal chance to all. Also, this non-consent-based information exchange must be stopped right away."
On the status of these marginalised category students at IITs, he says, "Many students are first-generation graduates and sometimes lack proper communication skills, and the institutions instead of helping them, sometimes segregate them as they relate merit with caste." In his email, Singh addresses the issue of SC/ST/OBC cells present in these institutions but he questions the functionality of such cells when students belonging to categories are losing their lives due to failure of government mechanisms to arrest such ways of profiling.
IITs, what do they have to say?
In response to the email forwarded by Singh to IIT Kanpur, the university refuted any kind of allegation in this regard via its response to the email. "We at SPO do not record the category-wise student information and hence, cannot directly assist in this regard," said Prof Gupta, Chairman, SPO, IIT-Kanpur.
IIT Guwahati shared a similar response where they allege that such statements are untrue. EdexLive was informed by a source from the university that the companies must be contacted for any anomalies in their recruitment process. They are yet to release a formal statement.
(EdexLive has also reached out to other companies who approach IITs for recruiting their students and is awaiting a response)