December 9, 2020.
TED NewsDesk, New Delhi: Completely neglecting the reservation norms, 11 departments out of 26 have admitted no student of the Scheduled Tribes between the year 2015 and 2019, according to an RTI filed by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC). On the contrary, the Dean of Academic Programmes, Prof Amitava De, IIT Bombay contested that they have followed all the guidelines for reservation in admissions thoroughly.
According to APPSC, none of the departments has processed the admissions according to the rules during the time period mentioned above; in fact, only five departments granted admission to not even five OBE students. The departments that have been accused include Aerospace Engineering, Climate Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics among others. Additionally, three departments only let in one SC student and two other departments, SJM School of Management and Centre of Research Engineering did not grant admission to a single SC student.
For PhD, out of the 2,874 students admitted, only 7.5 per cent of students were from the SC category while 1.6 per cent of students belonged to the ST category, and 19.2 per cent were from the OBC category. In contrast, 71.6 per cent of the students belonged to the general category.
As per the reservation law, 27 per cent reservation is granted to the OBC category, and 15 and 7.5 per cent students should be from the SC and ST category respectively. As per the APPSC, IIT Bombay claims that the fall in admission for reserved category students is due to the cut- off marks decided by the Government of India, “But they did not clarify what the guidelines devised by the GoI in the case of cut off marks for admission are. The reservation policy has itself been introduced in IITs only much later than it was in other institutions, which is in 1973. The way the cut-off marks function now, is in addition to the basic eligibility criteria, almost a deterrent for ST, SC and OBC students from joining the institute at all.”
The RTI revealed that from the 8827 SC candidates, only 216 were granted admission in the duration of five years. The Circle also claims that the discrimination against students of the reserved category is evident in the IITs, “This is visible in the number of SC/ST/OBC students being admitted, as the data submitted by Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in the Parliament suggests. We strongly demand the removal of this additional cut-off and the following of the reservation policy in its true spirit.”
The APPSC claims that these institutions of eminence practice cast discrimination as the suicides of students Aniket Ambhore in 2014 and Fathima Lateef (IIT Madras) in 2019, raised many questions regarding the administration’s conduct. According to a member of APPSC, “After protests, there was a three-member committee formed to look into the suicide. There are many issues still unresolved from those days and APPSC wanted to act on them coherently. Last year, after the suicide of Fathima Lateef (student of IIT Madras), the discussion on discrimination on campus again sprang up. Where via the forum of IIT Bombay For Justice, formed by four organisations coming together, we asked specific questions related to discrimination on campus to SC/ST cell, to which we never received satisfactory answers. In a parallel discussion with the student organisation in IIT Madras, the idea of filling an RTI came up.”
The institute is not responding to the students, who claim that after a few gestures showing interest in meeting with the students, no further communication has been received from their side. The institutes are not even replying to the questions of violating the reservation policy. The APPSC said that “We have repeatedly approached the administration since last July for a meeting, but they have declined to discuss this grave violation of reservation policy.”
The students have asked the institute why they have not followed the guidelines that clearly mention that if the reserved seats have not been filled in the current admission process, then those seats should be readvertised, and even then the seats remain unfulfilled, then they should carry those seats forward to the next academic session. But the institute has not followed these instructions. One of the students adds, “Since IITs are being projected as Institutes of Eminence and they are entranced in the logic of ‘merit’, what this cut-off mark does is put a lot of power in the hands of the select committee, so even if a candidate is eligible to appear for the exam, the committee can reject a student by providing them with a score less than the cut-off. In many of the IITs departments, there is no score given for the interview they just get told – ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Over the years since 1973, how many seats have been denied to SC/ST students? And how many reserved for OBCs have remained vacant since 2008? All IITs have to come forward and make the number public. That will be the first tiny step towards being accountable and changing things. Once that number is known, a mechanism can be devised to fill up the seats.”
One of the APPSC members said that the admission procedure has so many cheques and balances that it becomes difficult to keep track of data and ask questions to the administration. He said that such a diversified system makes it difficult to hold any single person or entity accountable. He also said that there is a lack of regular monitoring whether the reservation policy is being implemented with due diligence.
Although there is an SC/ST Student Cell which also works as the grievance cell for the student body, it is up to no use, as it takes no steps to make students of the reserved category aware of their rights. According to one of the students, the SC/ST Cell, “Is the most invisible Cell of the campus. We must understand even this kind of Cell is not there in most of the IITs. What IITs need to do is set up a proper functioning Cell in all its campuses, reachable to students, and conduct programs to better the conscience of students and more so of the faculties. One thing via the curriculum could be done is to introduce a course on caste where students and faculties must attend it once in their stay on campus. It is the BTech and MTech students of various IITs that are potential candidates for the PhD If the campus practices are more democratic and sensitive to caste and other forms of discrimination, more students will apply for the various courses.”
When the students and APPSC asked Prof Amitava De regarding the issues, he claimed that IIT Bombay followed all the guidelines of admission under the reservation quota.
There seems no end to this battle for the moment, the APPSC continues to raise questions and ask for justice for the students of the reserved category. It remains to be seen what the institute say on the issue and whether they are ready to have a dialogue with the student body as well as the organisation.