Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI: Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday questioned the rationale of IIT faculty protesting like “trade unionists” against their revised pay scales.

“Pained” at their decision to observe a token fast on Thursday, he said the Ministry was in no way trying to interfere with the autonomy of the Indian Institutes of Technology as was made out by the faculty.

In a point-to-point rebuttal of the issues they raised, Mr. Sibal wanted to know how the provision for a Ph.D with first class at the preceding degree for the posts of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor could be seen as an attempt to dilute merit or autonomy. Further, this was a recommendation made by the Fifth Central Pay Commission.

As for the decision to set aside 10 per cent recruitments in a year at the Assistant Professor level on contract for Ph.Ds from the IITs, Mr. Sibal said this was part of the government’s effort to retain some of the IIT products within the system.

Given the opposition to the move, he pointed out that individual IITs were free to write to their boards for relaxation of this provision if they could not meet the 10 per cent requirement.

Referring to the IIT faculty comparing their pay scales with that of university and college teachers and those in certain government departments such as Atomic Energy, the Ministry’s contention is that they were picking and choosing only aspects that suited their argument.

“The fact is that an IIT faculty member can become an Associate Professor within six years, while under the University Grants Commission scales, this transition takes double the time,” Mr. Sibal said.

Defending the 40 per cent cap on the post of Professors at the grade of Rs.12,000 per month, he said a new pay band had been created for senior professors. The cap was much higher for the IITs than UGC institutions, where 10 per cent of the sanctioned posts of professor were placed in the senior grade. At the National Institutes of Technology, the cap was at 20 per cent, and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences had a 25 per cent cap on the senior professor grade.

Borrowing a line from the All-India IIT Faculty Federation that the “issue is not just about a higher pay scale,” Mr. Sibal said: “I am happy that for them, salary is not the issue.” Drawing attention to their earnings from consultancies, he described their salary as the “icing on the cake,” adding the actual teaching time was kept very low in the IITs to facilitate research and consultancy work.

Open to discussing the issue with the faculty, Mr. Sibal also held out the hope for introducing a Performance-Related Incentive Scheme soon. “We have asked them to submit their proposals,” he said.

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