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For 3 yrs, govt sat on Anil Kakodkar’s appointment to IIT-Roorkee, now has an acting chairman

After keeping the post vacant for three years, the Ministry is learnt to have moved another proposal to the President a few months ago to make Reddy IIT-Roorkee’s acting chairman.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: February 6, 2021 12:08:01 pm
Scientist Anil Kakodkar. (File)

Three years since the government withheld the formal notification of scientist Anil Kakodkar’s appointment as chairman of IIT-Roorkee, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has given IIT-Hyderabad chairman, BVR Mohan Reddy, the additional charge of Roorkee.

As first reported by The Indian Express on July 6, 2017, the HRD Ministry (now renamed MoE) under Prakash Javadekar, after seeking Kakodkar’s consent informally, had forwarded his name for the post of IIT-Roorkee chairman to then President Pranab Mukherjee in the last week of June. However, in an unprecedented move, the formal announcement of the appointment was not made despite the President’s nod.

The Ministry’s rethink, according to sources, was prompted by objections raised by another Cabinet Minister regarding Javadekar’s decision.

After keeping the post vacant for three years, the Ministry is learnt to have moved another proposal to the President a few months ago to make Reddy IIT-Roorkee’s acting chairman. This was done without getting Rashtrapati Bhavan to rescind Kakodkar’s appointment.

“An IIT chairman’s tenure is of three years. More than three years have lapsed since Pranab Mukherjee approved Kakodkar’s appointment and so, legally, the ministry is no longer obligated to get the approval withdrawn or revoked,” said a government source.

“The President’s role is limited to approval of an appointment. His office is not concerned with whether that is officially notified or not. That’s the Executive’s job,” said another government source when asked if Rashtrapati Bhavan had asked MoE about the appointment.

MoE and Rashtrapati Bhavan did not respond to questions shared by this newspaper over email. When contacted, Kakodkar said he hasn’t got any update from the Ministry on this matter since 2017 and did not wish to say anything further.

Apart from assigning an acting chairperson for IIT-Roorkee, the Ministry did the same for another six institutes. While IIT-Mandi’s additional charge has been given to IIT-Dhanbad chairman Professor Prem Vrat, IIT-Jodhpur chairman Rajagopala Chidambaram will act as IIT-Delhi’s too. Pawan Goenka of IIT-Madras has also been assigned IIT-Bombay and Sanjiv Goenka of IIT-Kharagpur gets additional charge of IIT-Gandhinagar. IIT-Kanpur chairman K Radhakrishnan will also act as IIT-Ropar’s chairman.

Had the MoE stuck to its original proposal, Kakodkar’s appointment as IIT-Roorkee’s chairman would have marked the nuclear scientist’s re-entry into the IIT fraternity two years after he resigned as chairman of IIT-Bombay.

As first reported by The Indian Express on March 18, 2015, Kakodkar put in his papers after a disagreement with Javadekar’s predecessor Smriti Irani over the choice of an IIT director. At that time, Kakodkar, by virtue of being chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT-Bombay, was also a member of the selection committee constituted to screen candidates for the post of director at IITs in Ropar, Bhubaneshwar and Patna. Irani, as the HRD Minister, headed the selection committee.

Differences between the two surfaced in February 2015, when Irani scrapped the panel of 13 candidates shortlisted for the three posts following a disagreement over the choice of director for IIT-Ropar. The minister called for a fresh round of interviews on March 22, and all 37 applicants were invited again.

Miffed, Kakodkar quit his post on March 12, 2015, but later, on Irani’s request, agreed to stay for another two months and complete his term. He, however, distanced himself from the final selection of directors for the three IITs. At that time, both Irani and Kakodkar denied reports of any rift and attributed the resignation to personal reasons.

The scientist first spoke out against the selection process in an interview in May 2015, saying he resigned because he could not be party to any “wrongdoing”. Criticising the decision to conduct fresh interviews, he said, “The point is, you can’t be deciding that choice of IIT director or three IIT directors among 36 in a six- or seven-hour process. If you set aside everything, and then you decide like that, then you are running a lottery.”

On the other hand, Irani, in an interview to NDTV in November 2015, alleged that Kakodkar broke the law by interviewing a candidate who had not applied for the post and felt “slighted” when it was pointed out to him.

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