Updated: March 4, 2021 9:49:48 am
One incident officially flagged in the government’s justification for a bigger say in the functioning of the IIMs last year was a case involving a PhD thesis at IIM-Ahmedabad in which the Institute’s director, Erol D’Souza, had put his foot down.
This was a dissertation with three essays on electoral democracy approved for the award of PhD degree at a seminar chaired by D’Souza in March 2020.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) had asked the Institute for a copy of the thesis in April 2020 after Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy sent a letter to the Prime Minister alleging that the thesis said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party were “ethnically constituted” parties. And that the BJP is a “a pro-Hindu upper caste party.”
In his letter, Swamy said the PM was not an upper-caste leader and such depictions were “propagated” by British historians to show India was never “one country” and its society was never united.
Swamy had urged the government that IIM-A should be directed to “re-examine” the thesis by independent professors and that the PhD kept on hold until then.
When asked to share a copy of the thesis, D’Souza wrote to the MoE saying that the Ministry is not an arbiter of complaints regarding a thesis.
He is learned to have also said that the Thesis Advisory and Examination Committee of the Institute had read the thesis, and parts of it were presented to a select academic community at the viva, and anyone having a complaint should have raised at these forums.
When contacted by The Indian Express on Monday, D’Souza declined to comment. Sources said he had been sent another “reminder” regarding the ministry’s request to which his response has not been received.
D’Souza declining to share the thesis was cited in the government’s justification for seeking powers to initiate an inquiry against the Board of Governors (BoG) of an IIM, if it’s ostensibly found to be acting, what the government thinks, is in contravention of the IIM Act.
That proposal has been shelved after the Law Ministry rejected the idea on the ground that it’s inconsistent with the provisions of the IIM Act, which gives unprecedented autonomy to the 20 business schools. And that any provision permitting the government to take punitive action against the institute can only be introduced through an amendment in the law.
This is playing out amid a larger debate on the IIMs’ institutional autonomy and accountability. The latest in this is the controversy in IIM-Calcutta where the Board of Governors and a significant section of the faculty have objected to the Director with the Board clipping her powers of appointment last week even though the rules of the IIM Act have no such provision.
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