Indian Institute of Technology Madras' plan to offer gold coins to its 1,500-strong staff at a time when it is struggling to pay salaries and scholarships has triggered criticism from sections of its faculty.
Several faculty members have spurned the offer, dubbing the coins weighing between 2 and 8 gm a “waste of money by a public institution” like the IIT.
The weight of the coin — 2g, 4g, 6g or 8g — offered to the staff member will depend on the years he/she has spent at the IIT. “The different weight denominations offered almost encourage people to melt the coins for cash,” one of the professors, who rejected the offer said, speaking under the condition of anonymity.
Documents accessed by HT show the largesse comes close on the heels of desperate pleas from the IIT to the HRD ministry for funds — claiming it was struggling to pay salaries, scholarships and pension.
IIT Dean (administration) P Sriram told HT he was “100 % sure the money used for the coins did not come from any HRD ministry funds.” Sriram said he was unsure how the coins were financed, but said non-HRD ministry funds could technically not be used for payment of salaries.
Faculty members argued the technicality cited by Sriram hid the fact the IIT is forced to penny-pinch over funds.
“We are in the negative as far as Non-Plan [funds] are concerned to the extent of R32 crore, and we still have salary/scholarship/pension to pay to the tune of R15 crore,” IIT Madras director MS Ananth wrote to HRD ministry additional secretary Ashok Thakur on February 15, 2011. Neither Ananth nor deputy director VG Idichandy were available for comments.
The irony, faculty members argued, is heightened by the fact that the controversy has erupted at a time when the IITs are pleading with the government for financial autonomy.
“Should the IIT be building its corpus using funds it generates to achieve financial autonomy, or should it fritter these away on gold coins?” a faculty member said.