On the day The Indian Express reported that nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar had resigned as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, following a “disagreement” over the selection of an IIT director, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) reached out to him, saying his resignation had not been accepted and it was “glad” he had agreed to withdraw his resignation.
The matter was raised in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday with the Congress alleging “interference” in educational institutions and seeking a clarification. During zero-hour, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said it was a matter of serious concern that top people from educational institutions were resigning over alleged differences with HRD Minister Smriti Irani.
The government, in the meantime, reached out to Kakodkar, asking him to continue on his post. His term is due to end in May.
In a letter to Kakodkar, Higher Education Secretary Satya N Mohanty stated: “Your resignation has not been accepted at the government level. I understand that HRM (Irani) has talked to you on telephone in the meantime and requested you to withdraw your resignation. I am glad that you have graciously accepted withdrawal of your resignation letter because the institution stands to gain with your continuance and all of us are proud of your contribution to the institution. It is always a pleasure to see the right person leading an apex institution like IIT, Mumbai.”
Kakodkar was not available for comment.
In Rajya Sabha, Azad wanted to know why Kakodkar resigned. He said this was not the first time that such a thing had happened. He cited the resignation of R K Shevgaonkar as director of IIT Delhi and the differences with Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh.
“We feel there is a lot of interference by the government. Due to this, such institutions of excellence will be choked. Government should clarify what is the reason for these resignations in these institutions,” he said.
“The Prime Minister says we will build top class institutions and will give more importance to IITs. These are prestigious educational and technical institutions which are India’s pride and are regarded the world over. But top people are leaving these institutions due to differences,” he said.
Congress spokesperson Rajeev Gowda said “the HRD minister has become a habitual offender of continuous interference” and urged the Prime Minister to intervene.
“Anil Kakodkar has resigned from IIT Bombay. It is one more blow to the HRD sector. Last few months have seen a continuous decline. Irani has sought to kill the very basic of independence and autonomy of higher education institutions… The absolute incompetence of HRD ministry is destroying institutions. The morale of India’s top educational institutions is plummeting. I am anguished at seeing the HRD ministry rotting from the top,” Gowda said.
On Wednesday, The Indian Express reported that Kakodkar, a member of the selection committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council (SCIC), resigned on March 12 after “disagreement” over the choice of an IIT director.
The selection committee, chaired by Irani, seemed to have reached a consensus on the choice of directors for IIT Patna and Bhubaneswar but there was no agreement on IIT Ropar, and the process involving 12 candidates was later cancelled. All 37 in the original shortlist have been called for a new round of interviews starting March 22.
Kakodkar has always been a strong advocate of the autonomy of IITs. He was earlier chairman of an 11-member committee constituted by the HRD ministry in 2010 to “recommend autonomy measures to facilitate IITs to scale greater heights”.
In its report on a strategy to take IITs to “greater level of excellence and relevance”, the Kakodkar committee had said: “Managing such a transition would naturally require complete autonomy so that IITs can adopt innovative and flexible management approaches to move forward on a promising new idea in a selective manner.”
“Towards enhancing autonomy that would provide the IITs the necessary flexibility to support and deal with a new idea or take a new initiative and lead them towards world-class excellence, it is proposed that each institute be fully governed by its Board of Governors (BoG), including aspects like financial planning and expenditure rules, faculty remuneration, fees and number of faculty and staff, within the overall policy guidelines of the IIT Council in terms of expectations from IITs as world-class institutions, affirmative actions, technology directions and human resource development,” the committee stated.