Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why the IIT faculty is on a hunger strike

Airline employees strike.
Bank workers strike.
But IIT professors? It is a very sad day when they go on strike!

Something must be very rotten in the state of Denmark - in a manner of speaking - for these gentle souls to take such an extreme step. Certainly IIT professors deserve far better salaries but rest assured it is not merely for a few extra bucks.

I am reproducing an email put out by the Faculty Forum of IIT Bombay which lucidly explains why they took this stand.

Dear Friends:

HRD Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal has been making comments which incorrectly portrays our protest as being for salary only. This is far from the truth and a look at our memorandum dated 21/09/09 will make it clear that the IIT faculty are fighting more for autonomy, dignity and honor that the MHRD is systematically robbing the IITs of. Our main concerns are the following:

1. In the UGC system there is a percentage cap on posts (like 10% only can be Professors). This has failed them since meritorious people may not be promoted if there is no vacancy. MHRD is trying to impose something like that on IITs, where, till now, promotion is by merit only. This is direct interference in the academic autonomy of IITs.

2. IITs heavily depend on recruiting bright young people as soon as possible after PhD. MHRD has offered that a fresh PhD graduate can only be given a contractual post with a salary of about Rs 28000. Does anyone think we can recruit the large number of good people, that IITs need, with this salary? (IITs need about 6000-8000 new faculty in the next 7-8 years)

3. The Goverment of India has honored DAE and ISRO by giving them something called PRIS (O) since they are “centers of excellence”. Everyone from the sweepers to the senior scientists are getting that which is a 20% added amount to salary. They have nt given this yet to IITs. Are IITs not as “excellent” as DAE and ISRO?

This is about prestige and honor of the faculty. All these can only have one outcome: destruction of the IIT system over the next decade or two. The faculty are fighting to prevent this from happening. The minister through the media claims that it is about money. IT IS NOT ABOUT MONEY. If at all it is about money, it is for people who are not yet a faculty member here, for students still doing their PhDs (or even in earlier stages of their career, who have the potential to teach in an IIT, but may not feel that such a career is viable)


I believe that honour and prestige is the crux of the issue. Yes, IIT and IIM faculty feel they should be paid better but I don't think they would ever go on strike for money alone.

In fact, whenever I speak to faculty about whether they would jump ship as soon as some fancy foreign university sets up shop they say,"Not necessarily."

Apart from salary, professors value academic and operational freedom.
Their status as members of a respected institution.
The kick of teaching the 'best' students in the country.

If the government keeps its hands off and allows the older IITs and IIMs to chart their own destiny, they'll have a fighting chance. Else, the war will be lost... even before the battle has begun!

37 comments:

  1. At my Alma Mater, IITG..I alwways noticed..tht the professors werent happy with the systems, procedures, hierarcial paperwork coming from the colonial days etc..
    Professors are also like artists who need their creative space..
    IITs are what they are coz of the faculty and the learning..it shud be left alone..
    P.S. I just read in news paper that there are 15 IITs now..wow..in our days there were only 7.. thats some progress our country is making :P

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  2. I understand that they are not raising their voices for money. However they are also not raising their voices for the engineering community at large. IIT being the manmade oasis by government funding and stringent selection of students, has not tried to build the community around the excellence which it mostly talks about.
    The very high pedestal on which they exist and leave out the lesser mortals like regional and other government engineering colleges has resulted in this deadlock.There is still time that the larger community gets together and strike the syste, hcih is styming the growth of IITs and other institutions.
    Today they might raise the salary, but tomorrow the government and the babudom will poke thier nose into research and development funds.This agitation will not serve the purpose untill IITs and IIMs are unshackled from the bureaucracy and turned into autonomous bodies along with a thousand other institutions.

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  3. Definitely agree with whatever you have written. Though I also agree that the Government should keep an eye on these institutes as they are using public funds. But all said and done, these institutes are the pride of the country and they should be respectfully dealt with.

    In all this debate, the following matter is going unnoticed: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090921/jsp/nation/story_11522359.jsp

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  4. I partially agree to what the IIT professors say and you reiterate..

    I don't think full autonomy should be granted.. prestigious instis like IITs and IIMs rake in a large amount in fees.. and the natural need to regulate these funds arises..

    though the efficiency of govt. in regulating these funds can be questioned.. there is a lot bigger loop hole when it becomes autonomous..

    a partial autonomy is exactly justified..

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  6. I wonder if the babudom will ever stop snooping their nose into the administration of other institutes like IITs and AIIMS, they make stupid rules in otherwise calm institutes and expect people to follow them.
    Do they think we live in China?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Must say that the article was a real eye-opener. It is important to give full autonomy to such great teachers who craft the best Indian minds and make India proud.

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  9. I believe these Institutes are the best examples of spending fund most effectively and efficiently as compared to any other government body. Politicians just want to control everything. IITs are suffering from faculty shortage and looks like our HRD ministry is making matter worse. For professors at IITs money is not everything. They are capable of making it anywhere.

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  10. I fall in the category people who are not yet a faculty member here, for students still doing their PhDs (or even in earlier stages of their career) (Im not into PhD yet).
    And I feel with this kind of proposal govt. is giving strong impetus to negative growth to academics. One of the reasons why IIT affair was successful was because it was run fully by Americans for first decade (in case of IITK). Now as politics enters this domain they are going to do same with it as they have done with once-prestigious Presidency college of Kolkata.
    If you open webpage of any American univ. you will find scores of Indian proffs. No wonder. By doing such things HRDM will help in benefit but of America not India.

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  11. Couple of times felt that you specifically confirm your need to travel by train or rickshaw when compared to a flight or a car travel.

    Don’t think today generation guys care for status and they have basically experienced the comfortable train journey of first-class compartment and the pushy\ smelly road travel.

    We all love you the way you write and other trivial matters are not cared for!!

    //Shiv.

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  12. express your views on
    www.indiahype.com

    http://www.indiahype.com/notice/573 is the thread for the discussion

    indias microblog

    ReplyDelete
  13. express your views on
    www.indiahype.com Indias microblog

    IITStrike is the thread for the discussion

    indias microblog

    ReplyDelete
  14. They conducted the classes as any other day....along with hunger strike.

    vandy

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    ReplyDelete
  16. This to me is not very shocking....a lot of activities take place which if unvieled would reveal shocking truths, be it IIM's, IIT's, AIIMS or anywhere else. Almost every B'School fudges its placement figures, its faculty strength, its industry contacts...but students of any place are not brave enough to raise their opinion....

    ReplyDelete
  17. This to me is not very shocking....a lot of activities take place which if unvieled would reveal shocking truths, be it IIM's, IIT's, AIIMS or anywhere else. Almost every B'School fudges its placement figures, its faculty strength, its industry contacts...but students of any place are not brave enough to raise their opinion....

    ReplyDelete

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