As a row erupted over the resignation of the Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Raghunath K Shevgaonkar, sources in the Ministry of Human Resource Development said he had quit after the ministry sought an explanation from him on the Memorandum of Understanding between Mauritius Research Council (MRC) of Republic of Mauritius and IIT-Delhi for setting up an International Institute of Technology Research Academy in Mauritius.
Rejecting reports that Shevgaonkar resigned owing to pressure on him to release salary dues of nearly Rs 70 lakh to former IIT-Delhi faculty and now BJP functionary Subramanian Swamy for the period 1972 to 1991, the ministry said it did not forward any such request to IIT-Delhi.
“MHRD has neither forwarded Mr Swamy’s request to IIT-Delhi nor given any direction to make payment of arrears to Mr Swamy. Views of DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) and Finance Ministry have been sought on the matter,” a ministry statement said, describing all such reports as “inaccurate and incorrect”.
Shevgaonkar sent his resignation in a letter to Chairman of IIT Board of Governors Vijay P Bhatkar on Friday evening in which he cited “personal reasons”.
“Chairman, IIT-Delhi has forwarded Director’s resignation letter on 26th December evening for Appointing Authority’s decision following due process. Resignation can only be accepted by the Appointing Authority. It will have to go to the President for his approval as the Visitor of IIT-Delhi,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, sources in the HRD ministry claim Shevgaonkar resigned after the ministry moved a file in the matter regarding IIT-Delhi’s campus in Mauritius, which the ministry claims “violated the IIT Act”. The MoU was signed in 2013 under the then HRD minister M M Pallam Raju.
According to ministry officials, while the venture should have been limited to only research, that was not the case and, hence, the ministry had sought an explanation from Shevgaonkar. The ministry also took cognizance of an interview Shevgaonkar gave to the Mauritian media which it claims indicated IIT-Delhi was “running a campus” there.
When his comments were sought Sunday, Pallam Raju said “institutions have the autonomy to get into agreements with what they see commensurate”.
“Shevgaonkar was a fine director and academician. He did a lot of good service to IIT Delhi… Institutes have the autonomy to seek research partnership where they deem fit,” Pallam Raju told The Indian Express. He refused comment on the MoU saying the “agreement was for research”.
Sources in the ministry claim even if Swamy’s request had been forwarded to IIT-Delhi, a decision would have to be taken by the entire Board of Governors and not the Director alone. IIT-Delhi says Swamy has not provided it with information on his earnings from the time of his termination as a professor in 1972 to March 1991, when he was reinstated following a court order. Shevgaonkar, according to sources, was not in favour of clearing Swamy’s dues without the details being furnished.
Shevgaonkar, who resigned two years before the end of his term, was not available for comment.
Meanwhile, former Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, a former IITian, said it was “very sad” that Shevgaonkar had to resign and questioned if the autonomy of IITs was being challenged.
In October this year, National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) Director Parvin Sinclair had resigned in the middle of her five-year tenure after the government alleged she had committed procedural lapses in the purchase of paper and pulp for textbooks and instituted an inquiry against her.