October 7, 2018 3:05:30 am
Weeks after taking charge as the full-time director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, Shalini Bharat speaks to The Indian Express about the declining financial health of the institute and the plans ahead.
The financial health of the institute has been declining. Are there any specific plans to improve it?
First of all, we are following up with the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development, especially the funds that are due to us. For example, there are dues of nearly Rs 5.78 crore for three schemes, also another of Rs 2.88 crore, which we are following up too… We have been applying for some grant for our campuses and we are following up on that. Secondly, we are trying to see how we can raise some amount from our own research projects. We raise about 15 per cent of the administrative charges from what we charge for the projects. Thirdly, we are trying to develop more flexible academic programmes. We are trying to see how we can tap our alumni. Alumni can be a great source of brand-building and be brand ambassadors. They can hire our students. They can also contribute to our learning process. We need to imagine a space, where they can all come together.
The students’ protest that broke out earlier this year, hasn’t died down yet. Have you been able to bring students into confidence?
We have always been engaging with students. There were certain things that we have tried to do and we are still doing. One is, we are trying to raise resources and augment the students’ funds, so that those who are in need can apply for funds and get, if not 100 per cent, at least a substantial portion. We are following up with the government in cases, where they are not giving us the kind of fellowships that should come to us. And we are also trying to see that students are able to pay back to the institute the amount that is due because it goes directly into the students’ account through Direct Benefit Transfer. But mostly our emphasis is to bring in a bigger aid that will meet the needs of a large number of Government of India Post-Matric Scholarship students.
TISS missed out on the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. Is that a major setback?
In some ways, yes. We were hoping that we would have a decent funding and it will allow us to do much more… We are happy that we have been recognised with institutes such as Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and IIMs. We hope the attention that has been brought to TISS will attract some funding by CSR or we will have more partnerships in the international field.
Students from across social sciences institutes in the country are alleging that the current government is trying to repress institutes of social sciences. So, there are fund cuts. What are your views?
I would not say that this government is doing it. And I wouldn’t say governments, but I would say that in general, social science is not given that importance like that of science and technology institute. It is always seen that science and technology is a more brainy option, so people who go for that are the ones who are the cream of the society. So, that kind of perception has always been there. That’s why the pay packages have been really higher in science and technology fields and institutions get bigger funding. We need to talk about social transformation rather than technological advancements. I don’t think the governments are ignoring the social sector but they feel that the social sector does not need that kind of money. The perception, I think, is the problem and that needs to change.
Another concern among students these days is the political interference in educational institutes. How do you look at it?
I feel that there should not be any political interference. Students should be able to develop their perspectives in a multiple way, not one ideology. They have a life to develop. This is the platform where they have to learn. So, if they start practising at the time of learning, they are not being discerning. At TISS, we are funded by the UGC and so far we did not have interference. The students’ polls are fairly free from political interference or ideological wars.
During the Elgaar Parishad row, there were allegations that TISS students were taken by activist Mahesh Raut to join guerilla warfare.
I really wouldn’t like to comment because I have personally not known about this. Once a student goes out and gets into anything, it is not something that we track.
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