Responding strongly to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) faculty’s threat to go on a hunger strike over service conditions, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said the government was not diluting the autonomy of the IITs but some regulations are necessary.
Expressing anguish, he said: “We don’t expect prospective Nobel laureates to go on hunger strike. Is this the conduct of faculty belonging to institutions of eminence?”
On Monday, over 1,300 teachers of IITs decided to go on a hunger strike on Thursday to protest the government’s apathy towards their demand for a higher pay package.
They have two major contentions — the pay package of assistant and associate professors and a cap of 40 per cent on the number of professors who can be promoted to the next level.
No reputed university in the world give tenures to freshers, the minister said.
“All good universities expect you to teach for some years before giving you a tenure… three years teaching experience is needed before you can become a full-time faculty at the IITs. What’s wrong with that?” Sibal asked.
Both the IITs and the IIMs have called the new pay regime “insufficient either for retention of existing talent, or for attracting new ones”.
“A higher grade pay for professors has been introduced this year. The Govardhan Mehta Committee had suggested a much lower percentage. At All India Institute of Medical Science, only 25 per cent of professors will move to a higher grade pay,” Sibal said.
He added that a proposal to introduce performance-related incentive scheme was under consideration by the ministry.
“The directors of the IITs and the IIMs have been asked to send me a proposal. I am willing for the government to incrementally let go if they give us a five-year vision and goal post and achieve it,” Sibal said.
But the IIT faculty did not appear convinced by the minister’s arguments.
“We respect the minister for his passionate education reforms. But perhaps he is misinformed. The IIT autonomy is sacred to us. We just want our cadre to be flexible as it has been all these years,” said S.S. Murthy, president of IIT Delhi faculty association.