In a bizarre turn of events, a committee set up to suggest the effective implementation of reservation for faculty in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), has given a diametrically opposite recommendation. The committee has recommended the abolition or at least restrictions in reservation which was set up by the Ministry of Education (MoE). The committee included members from IITs, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training, and Department of Persons with Disabilities.
The recommendation has come as a shocker, as the number of faculty from OBC, SC and ST communities are highly negligible in IITs and other central institutes. A number of political parties, students’ organisations and employees’ associations have called for the rejection of the proposal and demanded the effective implementation of the reservation of faculty in such institutes.
REJECT RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE
The recommendation for scrapping the reservation for faculty from OBC, SC and ST community has come after the implementation of Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act. The act has set apart 15% reservation for SC, 7.5% for ST and 27% for OBC categories. In July 2019, a notification was published to incorporate the 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
The committee was set up to recommend effective measures to implement reservation for the SC, ST and OBC candidates in faculty positions across the IITs. Such institutes as well as central universities have a pathetic record of implementing the reservation in faculty appointment, in spite of the law mandating the same.
Prince Gajendra Babu, academician and social activist said, “The committee has gone beyond its purview and has recommended a diametrically opposite solution as against the very purpose of the constitution of the committee. This itself is a good enough reason to squarely reject the recommendations of Prof Ramgopal Rao committee.”
The political parties in Tamil Nadu have also demanded the MoE to reject the recommendation and prepare a roadmap to implement reservation in faculty recruitment in the IITs. A picketing protest was organised by the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK) on December 22 to the IIT-Madras campus in Chennai, reiterating the demand to reject the recommendation of the committee.
UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF SC,ST,OBC IN FACULTY
The All India Federation of Other Backward Classes Employees’ Welfare Association (AIOBC) has submitted a detailed memorandum to reject the recommendations of the committee. The AIOBC submission has quoted the reasons referred by committee to recommend the scrapping of the reservation for faculty, which include the need for IITs to maintain their academic excellence, low enrolment of reserved category students in Ph.D programmes in IITs, and the lack of candidates from the reserved categories who fulfil the qualification criteria.
The submission accuses the commission of the “wrong opinion that 'quality and excellence' are being watered down because of reservation policy, but the fact remains, as seen from government data, that the representation of OBC, SC and ST in faculty positions is less than 5%”.
The reservation for faculty in IITs remains pathetically low, at only 3.71% in the 23 IITs, against the mandated 27%. The situation is no better in the IIMs, as 18% IIMs have only 3.44% of OBC faculty. The 40 central universities have not even a single person from the OBC category as Professor or Associate Professor, while they have 14.38% filled in the Assistant Professor category.
The AIOBC, citing the prevailing under-representation of OBC, SC and ST category faculty in IITs, have demanded the rejection of the recommendation and demanded for the immediate appointment of faculty in the existing vacancies in all the central educational institutions.
‘THREAT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE, ACCESS TO EDUCATION’
Another important recommendation of the committee is on converting the IITs as Institutes of Excellence (IoE) along with the restriction of reservation for recruitment in only assistant professor grade I and II and not on any higher scales. The IoEs are exempted from any reservations and would lead to exclusion of socially and economically backward students from getting access to quality and affordable education.
The recommendations of the committee, which came to light through an Right to Information (RTI) petition, has invited sharp criticism from political parties and students’ bodies as well. The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) central secretariat in a press release ridiculed the recommendations of the committee.
“The Committee report further claims that the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in IITs follow reservations properly and they find difficulty in getting applications from quality PhD candidates from the reserved category. This is quite far from the truth,” the statement claims.
The SFI has also demanded to ‘revaluate PhD selection process at IITs to find out the bottlenecks/biases faced by the candidates from reserved categories and examine the reasons for underrepresentation of SC/ST/OBC/EWS in the postgraduate programs at all the IITs including M.S (by research)’.
Thol Thirumavalavan, MP and leader of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi in a release, has accused the committee of recommending steps against the welfare of the section longing for quality education for long. He also alleged that any such abolition will result in denying social justice to the members of the downtrodden community.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the left parties have demanded the rejection of the recommendations. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP from Madurai, S Venkatesan, has written to the MoE and has demanded the ministry to release a white paper with regard to admission and recruitment in IITs.
The students bodies of the IITs, ChintaBar from IIT, Madras and Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle of IIT, Bombay, have also expressed their disapproval of the recommendations of the committee.
The political parties, employees’ body and students organisations have unanimously demanded the effective implementation of reservation and to ensure that quality and affordable education is extended to all the aspiring students.