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Instituting troubles

For the first time in the nearly 50 years of the history of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), teachers of all the IITs are unitedly protesting against the perceived injustice meted out to them. The issues are deeper than the matter of their pay package, says SS Murthy.

india Updated: Sep 22, 2009 22:27 IST
SS Murthy

For the first time in the nearly 50 years of the history of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), teachers of all the IITs are unitedly protesting against the perceived injustice meted out to them. The issues are deeper than the matter of their pay package.

Reforms in accordance to the prime minister and the human resource development (HRD) minister, and according to recommendations of the Knowledge Commission and the Yashpal Committee, assure an increased autonomy in higher education with accountability. But the latest pay package is counter to this spirit.

The Faculty Forum of IIT, Delhi, presented an innovative scheme to help deprived students to join the IITs. Ignoring this, only politically-convenient schemes were thrust on the IITs by the government. Data shows that most of the beneficiaries of these schemes belong to a few privileged sections leaving the really needy (mainly from rural regions) out.

Now the government is interfering in faculty selection too. From their inception, the teacher-student ratio in IITs has been 8:1. Without any discussion, this is being unilaterally changed to 10:1 causing an increased teaching load that will affect teaching quality and reduce research. The IITs are still suffering from impact of a sudden increase in intake without matching facilities that has resulted in diluted teaching quality. Recently, it was learnt that as per rules, medical benefits were not available to them after retirement. Is it too much to expect the government to rectify such flaws?

The HRD Ministry’s announcement of the revised pay package was the last straw. Faculty representatives of all the IITs prepared a pay package scheme under the Sixth Pay Commission and submitted it to the Mehta Committee formed by HRD Ministry. Broadly, the suggested monthly pay for Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor were Rs 50,000, Rs 75,000, and Rs 100,000 respectively. The Mehta Committee Report, though it diluted these proposals, was broadly acceptable. But the announced HRD Ministry scheme was a further dilution. The scheme goes against the basic principles of autonomy and flexible cadre structure enjoyed by the IITs.

The All India IIT Teachers’ Federation prepared a memorandum listing the defects in the scheme and submitted it to the HRD Ministry. The memo also included perks such as scholastic pay and incentives to make the scheme attractive with very little strain on the government. To assess the justifiability of the demands, the ministry should form an expert committee drawn from industry, academia and distinguished IIT alumni and go by their views to close this unfortunate chapter.

It is imperative to address the concerns of the faculty so that the IITs continue to march ahead with greater glory.

S.S. Murthy is a Professor, Electrical Engineering and President of Faculty Forum, IIT Delhi.