A hike in the retirement age of Directors of the Indian Institutes of Technology has drawn concerns from academicians and transparency activists that the prospect of another term as heads could hamstring their emphasis on autonomy.
The Human Resource Development Ministry has approved a proposal allowing the IIT to change their statutes to hike the retirement age of Directors from 65 to 70, top Institute sources have told HT.
The hike will mean that all current Directors of the IITs will be eligible for another term at the top job once their current tenure ends.
Confirming the move, ministry sources argued that the raise was aimed at bringing the retirement age of Directors at par with that of Vice Chancellors of central universities, which is already 70.
The hike in retirement age of IIT Directors was proposed by the IIT Council — the highest decision making body of the Institutes — in January 2009.
But the HRD ministry approval has triggered a debate over whether the prospect of another term may make IIT Directors less "autonomous" in their relationship with the government. It has also reignited questions over whether there is a shortage of younger people qualified for the post.
"This is not a good move. It presumes that there is a shortage of younger people good enough to head the IITs," argued Dr E Muralidharan, an IIT Madras alumnus who had legally challenged the reappointment of that Institute's Directors M S Ananth for a second term.
Ananth is one of three Directors — the heads of IITs in Guwahati and Kanpur are others — who are already in their second terms as Directors.
"Why should the same people get to head the Institute again and again," Muralidharan questioned.
A senior IIT professor called the move retrograde.
"If I know that my time is up at the end of my term, I wouldn't have anything to lose in standing up to the government. That will not be the case any more."
But an IIT Director rejected the suggestion that the lure of another term could impede the autonomy of the Institute heads.
"I would lose all respect of my colleagues at IIT if I compromised — at all — on the interests of the Institute. Why would any Director risk that," he argued.