Breaking his silence a fortnight after he quit as chairman of the board of governors of IIT-Bombay owing to a “disagreement “ with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry over selection of IIT directors, nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar on Friday said IITs “should be left alone”. He also described the government’s new selection process as “very casual”.
“IITs are institutions which have been established as centres of excellence. I think they should be left alone… The new selection process is very casual. The selection process of the directors of IITs has to be dealt with seriously. You cannot talk to 36 people in a day and make a selection. That is not right,” Kakodkar told reporters while responding to their queries at the Nehru Science Centre innovation festival he inaugurated in Worli.
On March 18, The Indian Express first reported that Kakodkar had quit ahead of a meeting of a search-cum-selection committee, chaired by minister Smriti Irani, which was to interview candidates for directors of three IITs. A member of the selection committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council (SCIC), he resigned on March 12 after “disagreement” over the choice of an IIT director.
As many as 37 candidates for the director’s job at IIT Patna, Bhubaneswar and Ropar had been shortlisted and a dozen were called for an interview by the committee on February 16.
While a consensus seemed to be emerging on the choice of directors for IIT Patna and Bhubaneswar, there was no agreement on IIT Ropar. The process involving 12 candidates was later cancelled and all 37 in the original shortlist were called for a new round of interviews starting March 22. Kakodkar gave it a miss saying he had “prior engagements”.
Asked Friday whether he resigned because he was upset over the ministry interference in the selection process, he said: “I resigned because my term is about to get over and also the last meeting of the IIT-Bombay’s board of governors is over. I, therefore, wanted to step down. “
After he resigned, Irani reached out to him and he agreed to stay on. The ministry said his resignation had not been accepted, and that the government was glad he had agreed to withdraw it. His tenure ends in May.