India’s premier management institutes might be on a warpath with the government over implementing reservations in teaching staff recruitment, potentially aggravating a nationwide debate over caste quotas and discrimination on campuses.
Three top Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) not dependent on government funds--Kolkata, Bangalore and Lucknow--haven’t yet responded to a human resource development ministry letter asking if the schools followed Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes (SC/ ST/OBC) quota policy in faculty hires.
Some other IIMs put up a defiant note to the April 12 letter, saying they stressed only on merit in staff recruitment, said sources. IIM-Rohtak said 16 of the 17 faculty positions were from the general category.
“You cannot be giving non-deserving candidates preference just because they are SC or ST,” Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson of IIM-Bangalore, told HT.
IIM-Trichy said it extended reservations provided the candidate measured up to qualification sought.
An IIM director who did not wish to be named said quotas in teaching positions will hurt the quality of education that ‘brand IIM’ is associated with.
“The reservations for students at schools and university level is fine but to fill the faculty positions on the basis of caste at premier management schools that are centres of excellence is foolhardy,” he said.
India extends reservations for scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBC) for social empowerment of the communities that have been historically marginalized. But critics say the quota system hurts quality of education and is unfair to upper-caste candidates.
The IIM controversy comes as the Centre faces intense criticism over caste discrimination and the absence of SC/ST/OBC faculty members, three months after the suicide of Dalit PhD student Rohith Vemula sparked a storm of protests.
With an eye on state polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reached out to the lower-castes--who comprise a fifth of India’s population --with schemes and sops, in a bid to nix Opposition charges of the BJP being an upper-caste party.
Most IIMs said they recruited teachers on merit and not on the basis of their caste or background.
“We agree a combination of meritocracy and affirmative action is the solution and if all things are equal, we would certainly give preference to a candidate from SC or ST community,” Shaw said.
Sources said after getting the status report on reservation policy in these institutions, the government will work out a strategy to enforce it.
Reservation in IIM faculty positions has a controversial history. In 2008, then HRD minister Arjun Singh directed all centrally funded institutions -- including IITs and IIMs -- to implement faculty quotas, triggering protests. The IITs toed the government line but the IIMs were defiant.
Faced with protests, Singh proposed a bill that would exempt 47 premier higher educational institutions, including IITs and IIMs, from reservations. The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in December 2008 but it lapsed after the 14th Lok Sabha was dissolved.
Sources said the April 12 letter was a follow up to a 2013 letter that asked the IIMs to implement quotas in faculty positions. The April letter asked IIMs if they implemented quotas in faculty hires and if they didn’t, why they should be exempt from a constitutional provision that requires every centrally funded institution to follow the policy, a source said.