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Exempt IIT recruitments from reservation, suggests panel

An eight-member committee appointed by the government for suggesting measures for effective implementation of reservation in students admissions and faculty recruitment in IITs has recommended that the 23 engineering schools should be exempted from reservations under CEI Act, 2019, and rather than specific quotas, diversity issues should be addressed through outreach campaigns and targeted recruitment of faculty.

The committee’s five-page report submitted to the HRD ministry, now renamed Ministry of Education, on June 17 was made available on Wednesday under the Right to Information Act through an application filed in Uttar Pradesh.

The committee was chaired by IIT Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao and had IIT Kanpur director Abhay Karandikar, representatives of secretaries of the departments of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training, Persons with Disabilities and registrars of IIT Bombay and IIT Madras as its other members.

Among two sets of recommendations made by the committee, one stated that IITs should be added to the list of “Institutions of Excellence” mentioned in the Schedule to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act 2019. Section 4 of the Act exempts “institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance” mentioned in the Schedule and minority institutions from providing reservation.

Currently, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Brain Research Centre, North-Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Physical Research Laboratory, Space Physics Laboratory, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing and Homi Bhabha National Institute and all its 10 constituent units are covered under the Section 4 of the law.

The report states, “Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance under an Act of Parliament, IITs have ought to be listed under the Schedule to…CEI Act, 2019 for exemption from reservations. This must be immediately reconsidered for inclusion of IITs in the Schedule taking into account the nature of these institutions, duties and their activities. The matter of reservations in these institutions may be vested with their respective Board of Governors to deal with as per the Board resolutions, statues, and bylaws.”

The report drew a sharp reaction from IIT Bombay’s Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), which said in a statement on Wednesday, “Instead of highlighting wrongs in the existing selection process and recommending ways to correct those, the committee carries their casteist ignorance and leaves the blame on candidates from reserved categories for not being ‘qualified enough’. There exists sufficient data to suggest that the lack of qualified candidates from the reserved categories was never a reason for their lack of admissions in PhD programmes at the IITs. It is the cut-off mark that is used to deny entry to eligible SC/ST/OBC students in campuses like IITs for years.”

A member of APPSC told The Indian Express, “The committee report was not made public earlier. We got it only today after an RTI application was filed in UP. The committee has done the exact opposite of what it was appointed to do. It was supposed to address the violations of the reservation policies that we have time and again pointed out with data. Instead, it wants to do away with reservation for recruitment of faculty. This is like a person accused of violating a law asking for the law to be scrapped.”

The committee, which met on May 1 and May 12 through video conferencing, also wrote in its report: “The enrollment of reserved category students in the PhD program is low and needs to be addressed… This is severely limiting the number of reserved category candidates available to be hired as faculty in the IIT system.”