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IIT Delhi, Bombay Among 49 Major Institutes Without Chairpersons

Top 10 institutes of national importance have been headless since 2014-15, RTI queries reveal.
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Seven IITs, 22 NITs and 20 IIITs are among 49 institutes of national importance without full-time chairpersons with some of them headless for more than eight years. Right to Information (RTI) queries by The Economic Times (ET) revealed that 10 institutes have been without chairpersons since 2014-15.

IIT Delhi has been without a full-time chairperson since January 2019, IIT Bombay since April 2019, IIT Gandhinagar since November 1, 2015, IIT Roorkee since May 2017, IIT Ropar since September 2017, IIT Mandi since October 2020 and IIT Kharagpur since June 2022.

No chairperson was appointed to IIT Delhi since Kumar Mangalam Birla’s term ended and IIT Jammu chairman Sharad Saraf was given the additional charge of IIT Bombay only in 2022.

The story of NITs is not different with 22 of them headless. NITs in Jamshedpur, Raipur and Warangal have been without a chairperson since 2015. NITs in Delhi, Sikkim, Srinagar, Nagpur and Surathkal had vacant posts from 2017 to 2021. The case of IIIT is the worst with 20 of them headless.

IIIT Tiruchirapalli and IIIT Kota, both run on PPP mode, hav been without a chairperson since July 1. The IIITs in Una and Sonepat have had no chairperson since July 2014 and the IITs in Lucknow and Senapati since July 2015.

Twelve of the 20 IIITs are headed by the department of higher education secretary. The IIITs in Allahabad and Gwalior are headed by the chairpersons of the board of governors (BoGs) of IIT Patna and IIIT Dharwad, respectively.

Governments appoint leading industrialists and scientists as chairpersons to help institutes formulate visionary policies, amplify networks and encourage academia-industry collaboration.

Appointment of chairpersons, who ensure checks and balances and policy and project approvals, to IITs, NITs and IIITs is based on nomination and the government’s prerogative. In replies to parliamentary questions on the vacancies, the Union education ministry has maintained that nomination and appointment of chairpersons is a “continuous process”.

A former senior official from the ministry familiar with the issue told the ET that the endless process of screening possible candidates is the reason for the vacancies.

“While the end all at the government level may be just to find the best possible candidate, the lack of any deadline obviously ends up impacting institutes and depriving them of a more well-rounded decision-making process,” the official said requesting anonymity.

A former head of an institute said that it shows the government’s “casual” approach towards an important issue. “It is just not given the due seriousness. These institutes have written to the government so often and even suggested names, but no decision has been taken,” he said requesting anonymity.

“A chairperson’s role is important as he/she not only brings a neutral and objective perspective to the BoG but often also helps forge industry collaboration, bring in their network and connections, which help an institute grow,” he added.

Prolonged vacancies often result in directors taking over additional charge, which is usually undesirable due to a conflict of interest with the same person holding two top posts. In other cases, top government officials from the education ministry or state governments hold additional charges as chairpersons, which is “not likely to do much justice given their other duties”, an academic said.

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