Nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar who quit as chairman of IIT Bombay’s governing body following reports of differences with HRD minister Smriti Irani, was backed on Wednesday by four members of a panel that picks directors for the technical education institutions.
The former Bhabha Atomic Research Centre chief quit amid reports of disagreement with the minister over the selection of three IIT directors, sparking controversy as the Congress accused Irani of interfering with the autonomy of higher-education institutes.
Sources said Kakodkar had decided to stay on until the end of his tenure in May, but the disagreement between the IITs and HRD ministry is unlikely to be resolved soon as five of the nine members of the selection panel have informed the ministry they will not be available for the next meeting on March 22.
They participated in the first meeting to choose the directors of three IITs—Ropar, Bhubaneswar and Patna.
“I have better things to do,” Lila Poonawalla, one of the panel members, told HT. Former IIT-Madras director MS Ananth, too, confirmed he would not participate in the next meeting.
Others who will be absent include former DRDO chief VK Saraswat, IIT Patna chairman Ajay Chaudhary and Kakodkar.
The first meeting of the selection committee ended inconclusive as differences cropped up over a candidate who was called for the interview but did not belong to the original 37 shortlisted.
The Opposition said it was a matter of serious concern that top people from educational institutions were resigning allegedly over differences with Irani.
“The absolute incompetence of the HRD minister is destroying institutions that have been nurtured over decades.
The morale of India’s education sector is plummeting,” said Congress spokesperson Rajeev Gowda.
He also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step in and put the HRD ministry back on track.
The HRD ministry has been embroiled in a slew of controversies since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power last year amid reports that it’s being guided by inputs from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.