Dean of academic programmes Amitava De said the institute followed all the reservation norms in letter and spirit; and only candidates who clear the cut-offs set by each department are admitted to PhD programmes.(HT FILE)
Dean of academic programmes Amitava De said the institute followed all the reservation norms in letter and spirit; and only candidates who clear the cut-offs set by each department are admitted to PhD programmes.(HT FILE)

No PhD scholar from ST category in 11 of 26 departments at IIT-Bombay between 2015 and 2019: RTI data

Of the total applications received in the five years, only 1.8% were from candidates from ST category; 10.7% from SC category and 21.8% from OBC
By Priyanka Sahoo
UPDATED ON NOV 24, 2020 12:10 AM IST

Eleven out of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s (IIT-B) 26 departments and centres did not admit a single PhD scholar from the scheduled tribe (ST) category between 2015 and 2019, revealed data received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

While almost 50% seats at IITs are for students from reserved categories — ST, scheduled caste (SC) and other backward classes (OBC) — less than 30% of those selected for PhD programmes at IIT-B between 2015 and 2019 were from these categories.

A total of 82,277 students applied for admission to PhD programmes in the 26 departments of IIT-B between 2015 and 2019. Of the 2,874 selected, 71.6% were from the general category; 1.6% were from the ST category; 7.5% were from the SC category; and 19.2% were from the OBC category. Of the total applications received in the five years, only 1.8% were from candidates from ST category; 10.7% from SC category and 21.8% from OBC category. This information was disclosed in response to an RTI application filed by an IIT-B student in association with the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student organisation at the institute. HT has a copy of the RTI response.

The government of India’s (GoI) norms require 10% of all seats to be reserved for students from economically weaker sections; 27% for OBC students; 15% for SC students; 7.5% for ST students; and 5% for students with physically disabilities. Data from IIT-B shows only one department admitted more than 10 ST students between 2015 and 2019. Eleven departments admitted more than 10 SC students in five years and 14 departments admitted more than 10 OBC students.

Dean of academic programmes Amitava De said the institute followed all the reservation norms in letter and spirit; and only candidates who clear the cut-offs set by each department are admitted to PhD programmes. “Over and above the eligibility criteria, candidates are required to qualify through a test and/ or interview …The cut-offs for each birth category is fixed as per the GoI norms. To be eligible for the final admission offer, a candidate must score marks above the set cut-off mark,” said De, adding that the admission committee of each academic unit checks and monitors the admission process to check for biases.

In a statement, APPSC said, “The institute has not yet clarified what are the guidelines devised by the GoI in the case of cut-off marks for admission. The reservation policy has itself been introduced in IITs only much later than it was in other institutions. The cut-off marks function in addition to the basic eligibility criteria, which is almost a deterrent for ST, SC, and OBC students from joining the institute at all. A systemic practice of exclusion is happening across all IITs… We strongly demand the removal of this additional cut-off and the following of the reservation policy in its true spirit.”

At IIT-B, PhD admissions are held twice a year for all 12 positions including teaching assistantship and research assistantship. De said that an advertisement for admissions is placed on the institute’s website and candidates have to apply online. “Candidates are selected based on prior academic records, test and/or interview,” said De. Of the total number of candidates who applied to the PhD programmes in the five-year period, only 3.5% were successful in securing admission.

De said the number of applications from SC, ST and OBC categories were lower than from the general category. Of the 54,021 general category candidates who applied, 3.8% were admitted while 2.4% of SC applicants were admitted. For ST and OBC candidates, the conversion rate is 3.1%.

For instance, the mathematics department of IIT-B received 43 applications from ST candidates between 2015 and 2019, but none were selected. Of the 220 applications the department received from SC candidates, only seven were selected in the same period. Of the 607 OBC applicants, 19 made it through.

Former chairperson of University Grants Commission and author of Blocked By Caste: Economic Discrimination and Social Exclusion in Modern India, said, “Initially, the number of applicants from reserved categories in higher education institutes were few. However, the situation has improved now with more applications coming in. While the lack of representation has to be understood in the context of the number of applications, the lack of representation at IIT-B is concerning, irrespective of the reasons.”

APPSC alleged IIT-B has not followed the ministry of education norms for vacant seats. “Rules mandate that if the institute fails to implement the stipulated reservation for a year, it has to re-advertise the seats, call for admissions again, and carry forward those seats into the subsequent year. IIT-B should explain why they haven’t been following any of these mechanisms, despite seats being left vacant,” said APPSC.

On the subject of biases, De said students can approach the SC/ST cell with complaints, but students said it was not easy to report biases. APPSC said in its statement that the SC/ST cell has been ineffective. “The caste bias at IIT-B is both systemic and subtle. The data clearly shows that very few from reserved categories are admitted. Casual remarks are passed by professors and colleagues that our admissions are not based on merit. There is an insinuation that we should drop out midway,” said a research scholar at IIT-B who is from the SC community.

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