Four Opposition MPs have accused the Smriti Irani – headed HRD ministry of undermining higher education institutions’ autonomy and sought President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention to check “lasting damage” to some of the IITs and central universities.
The Congress’s Rajeev Shukla, Janata Dal United’s K.C. Tyagi, NCP’s D.P. Tripathi and the CPI’s D. Raja have voiced the concerns against the backdrop of controversies over the ministry’s alleged meddling in some IITs and Delhi University.
The ministry’s role is to lay down broad policy and ensure adequate funding and not to “interfere in or systematically erode the processes that govern the functioning of these institutions”, the MPs said in a statement today after writing to Mukherjee.
The directors of three new IITs – those in Bhubaneswar, Patna and Ropar – were finalised recently in Smriti-chaired selections that saw 36 candidates being interviewed in six hours, or 10 minutes each, raising questions about the sanctity of the process.
The other recent controversies include the resignation of IIT Delhi director R.K. Shevgaonkar and the ministry’s show-cause to Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh for having introduced the now-scrapped four-year under-graduate programme.
The MPs’ statement alluded to Shevgaonkar, saying an “eminent director of a well-known IIT has been subjected to humiliation and harassment”.
Without naming Anil Kakodkar, the statement referred to the circumstances leading to the nuclear scientist’s resignation as IIT Bombay chairman. Kakodkar quit after the ministry rejected the recommendations of search panels for IIT directors in which he was a member.