By Aayush Raj:
Dear Ministry of HRD,
As the tiniest cog in the Indian education system, I reach out to you via this medium to make sure my voice is not stifled by the red-tape of your endless procedures and that you may understand the plight of my brethren. IITs are, without doubt, the ace educational institutes of the country and for those who enter it, not only a passport of better life, but a channel to serve science and society. But is everything right at IIT Jodhpur, my alma mater?
Established very recently to increase the opportunity of quality higher education in India, IIT Jodhpur has successfully made its mark in every field – be it academia, research, placements, sports, or entrepreneurship. We not only produce the finest engineers, but have the distinction of the first team gold by a new IIT in the Sports Meet; and have successfully incubated two companies in the first five years of our existence. Yet when I see the rampant malpractices and misappropriation of duty by the caretakers, and the cheap games played with the life and careers of students and faculty of IIT Jodhpur, believe me, my soul cries for change.
The root of trouble stems from abuse of power by the Director, IIT Jodhpur, and his agenda of running IIT Jodhpur as his personal fiefdom. With the institute already facing a severe faculty crunch, he has used petty personal grudges to terminate faculty indiscriminately, leading to even more resignations. At this point, the faculty-student ratio in IITJ is 18:1, more than twice as much as the recommended 8:1 for IITs.
Matters came to a head recently on 29 March 2015, when Dr. Ganesh Bagler, an Assistant Professor in Biology department, was terminated despite excellent research, classroom and overall performance. The entire student community and faculty are outraged at such blatant disrespect, and the utter lack of motivation behind this. The official statement cites an “academic performance review”, a document prepared by a committee chaired by him, whose members hold office at his pleasure, which meets behind closed doors, acts upon procedures never made public, and whose actions are above scrutiny. Dr. Bagler’s case is just one of the many faculty terminations that have a common thread: the erstwhile faculty had somehow spoken up against him or his policies.
The rampant and baseless cases of termination have created an unhealthy and severely unprofessional atmosphere in IITJ, with reputed faculty members hoping to quit here and get away from what they call “a constant state of trauma.” The situation has deteriorated to an extent where courses are getting scraped due to lack of faculty, or being run via Skype by faculty loaned from other colleges.
The immoral terminations have hit hard on one of the fundamental pillars of IIT – the research activities. With so few faculty members, postgraduate students are finding it hard to get suitable mentors from the professors. Also given the fact that the existing faculty is being terminated without any regard, the postgraduates under said faculty is left with a bleak future. They are given the Hobson’s choice of either giving up their life’s work and choosing a new research interest, or giving up on their post-graduation dream itself. For a researcher to give up nearly two decades of their life’s work just because one man wants things his own way is downright autocratic and a total breach of everything our system stands for.
In yet another move that staked the entire career of over 100 students, the Director decided to shut down two undergraduate programs, even as students of earlier batches admitted to the same programs were left to fend for themselves. After tremendous student resistance last year prevented him, this year he had the decision passed nonetheless, even going to the extent of keeping the student community in the dark, lying in official meetings, and releasing the office orders to public four months late to ensure no protests!
For the past year, student activities at IITJ have faced severe problems due to the dictatorial attitude of the Director. Not only the say of students in their own welfare has been cut down to almost zero, his strict centralization of power has made faculty powerless to support the Students’ Body. Time and again he has flouted the students’ right to make decisions regarding the functioning of student bodies. More often than not, his tactics are below-the-belt; aimed at exacting personal revenge against anybody who dares to speak up against him or his policies. He is famous for making false promises shamelessly in public, and then turning back on his words and blaming someone for the whole issue.
This is not about some official documents; this is not about how an institute should be run. This is about our lives and the truth that we shall not allow them to become pawns in one man’s game. Our dreams are valuable, our lives hold purpose and we demand what we rightfully deserve. Are your offices so full of dusty files that you cannot hear our voices? Or are we too insignificant for you to care?
Our demand is simple. We want #FreedomForIITJ!