The standoff between the Government and faculty of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) ended on Friday with Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal assuring them that departures could be made from the contentious revised pay structure in exceptional cases.
Briefing the media after a meeting with representatives of the All-India Faculty Federation, Mr. Sibal said: ``I have made it clear that what has been decided by the government is in the nature of norms and the IIT system has enough flexibility to deviate from it in exceptional situations.’’ These exceptions – especially the provision of setting aside 10 per cent recruitments at entry level annually for Ph.Ds from IITs to retain talent within – can be made by respective IIT Boards if they cannot meet the requirement.
Conceding the point made by the Federation that the IIT system is a dynamic one, the Minister said the Government was open to revisiting the 40 per cent cap on senior professor grade. While the Ministry has been maintaining that the cap was introduced to flag off the brighter and better among professors, he said: ``If there is a level of excellence that requires relaxing the cap, then we will revisit it.’’
At the same time, he said, the IIT system would have to work out norms for making such exceptions. ``We want to protect the level of excellence at IITs,’’ the Minister said; adding that the meeting had helped clear the air and made the faculty members realise that they and the Government were on the same wavelength.
Pleased with the assurance secured from the Minister, Federation president M. Thenmozhi said Mr. Sibal had assured them that the new pay structure does not in any way interfere with the flexibility of the IIT system. Further, the Federation has been told that amendments would be made in the September 16 notification on pay revision of teachers in Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTI) to remove minor irritants.
Though Federation office-bearers returned satisfied, some of them said they would have to call the general body for wider consensus. Meanwhile, they will meet IIT Directors on Saturday to iron out the rough spots. Later in the month – on October 19 – the IIT Council will meet, the Minister said; reiterating his willingness to extend greater autonomy to the premier institutions provided they chart out a road map for the next five years.
While the issue has been festering since August 18 when the Ministry’s first notification on revised pay scales for CFTI was issued, the Federation adopted restrained forms of agitation after the September 16 notification that was finalised in consultation with IIT Directors. The Federation observed a day’s hunger strike while taking their classes. With Mr. Sibal having questioned the rationale in the IIT faculty protesting like ``trade unionists’’, the Federation today clarified that their hunger strike was only a symbolic exercise aimed at drawing attention to their grievances.