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.
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!