TWO YEARS after he resigned as chairman of the Board of Governors (BoG) of IIT-Bombay following differences with former HRD Minister Smriti Irani, nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, 73, is set to re-enter the IIT fraternity as head of the BoG at IIT-Roorkee. The HRD Ministry, which is now headed by Prakash Javadekar, is learnt to have forwarded Kakodkar’s name for the post to President President Pranab Mukherjee last month. He will be officially appointed once the recommendation has the President’s stamp of approval.
The IIT BoG chairman’s term is of three years. When contacted by The Indian Express, Kakodkar confirmed on Wednesday that the HRD Ministry had sought his concurrence before recommending his name for the job. “Yes, they (HRD Ministry) approached me and I have agreed,” said Kakodkar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India and former director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
As first reported by The Indian Express on March 18, 2015, Kakodkar put in his papers after a disagreement with Irani over the choice of an IIT director. At that time, Kakodkar, by virtue of being the IIT-Bombay BoG chairman, was also a member of the selection committee constituted to screen candidates for the post of director at the 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 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 agreed to stay for another two months and complete his term on Irani’s request. 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 that 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. Irani was transferred to the Ministry of Textiles in a cabinet reshuffle in July 2016. When asked on Wednesday if his decision to accept the offer to head IIT-Roorkee’s BoG had anything to do with the change of guard at the HRD Ministry and if he had put the controversy behind him, Kakodkar said, “I work according to my principles and I have agreed to it (the offer) now. That is all I can say.”
Kakodkar, after the President formally approves his appointment, will succeed Professor Ashok Mishra. Although the institute had suggested another term for Mishra, the ministry forwarded Kakodkar’s name for the job. A week ago, the President appointed Sanjeev Goenka, chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, as head of IIT-Kharagpur’s BoG. The ministry is yet to suggest any names for the corresponding posts at the IITs in Indore, Jodhpur, Gandhinagar and six new IITs set up by the Modi government in Jammu, Tirupati, Palakkad, Dharwar, Bhilai and Goa.