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Exempt IITs from reservation in faculty recruitment: Expert panel

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) should be exempted from reservations in faculty appointments and rather than specific quotas, diversity issues should be addressed through outreach campaigns and targeted recruitment of faculty, a Ministry of Education (MoE) panel has recommended.
The eight-member committee comprising IIT directors was asked to suggest measures on effective implementation of reservation policies not only in recruitment, but also for admissions.

In a report submitted to the government in June, the panel said that the IITs should be exempted from reservations because they were “institutes of national importance and are involved in research”.

“Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance under an Act of Parliament, IITs have ought to be listed under (clause 4) of the CEI (Reservation in Teacher’s Cadre) 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 report sought through RTI by a Lucknow based activist said.

“In order to compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching, a system emphasising targeted goals over a period of time, rather than specific quotas, to address diversity issues through outreach campaigns,” it added.

According to clause 4 of the Central Educational Institutions (CEI) Act, institutions of excellence, research institutions and institutions of national and strategic importance are exempted from granting caste-based reservation in faculty hiring.

At present, eight institutions are listed under the clause — the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, National Brain Research Centre in Gurgaon, North-Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Science in Shillong, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, Space Physics Laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing in Dehradun and Homi Bhabha National Institute and all its 10 constituent units in Mumbai.

There are 23 IITs in the country.

The committee was constituted in April this year with director of IIT-Delhi, V Ramgopal Rao, as its chairperson and the director of IIT Kanpur, registrars of IIT-Bombay and IIT-Madras, and representatives from Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE), Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training and Department of Persons with Disabilities as members.

The committee, which met twice in May and submitted its report on June 17, 2020, also noted that the expectations on the faculty from IITs were very high due to the quality and standards of education.

“The faculty being recruited at IITs are candidates with minimum of PhD degree with superior academic record and with high research accomplishments,” the report said.

“The enrolment of reserved category students in the PhD programme 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,” it added.

The committee also suggested offering a two-year Research Assistantship for students from reserved categories aspiring to join PhD programmes.

“However, the subsequent selection of these students to regular Ph.D programmes will be only based on ”merit” and there shall be no obligation on IITs to admit them,” it said.

According to student group Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), the report should have been made public for feedbacks and suggestions.

“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,” it said in a statement.

“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,” the APPSC said.

“It is the cut-off mark that is used to deny entry to eligible SC/ST/OBC students in campuses like IITs for years. The report should be kept in public domain for feedbacks and suggestions,” it added.