Excellence in diversity: On scrapping of reservation in IIT recruitment

The significant expansion of the IIT system since 2008, after reservation was extended to student candidates belonging to Other Backward Classes, has resulted in a vexed situation in which these institutions are unable to find enough qualified faculty members, whose recruitment must also meet quota norms. Bound by the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019, the IITs must fulfil the important goal of affirmative action while making appointments. While the law is enabling, the benefit cannot be extended to many due to a severe mismatch between the demand and availability of technology research graduates. Last year, IIT Delhi had a staggering deficit of 30% in its teacher ranks, and there are 23 such institutes in India now, highlighting the scale of the crisis. It is in this context of large-scale vacancies that the Education Ministry tasked a committee to suggest effective implementation of reservation in central institutions such as the IITs, for both student enrolment and faculty recruitment. The panel headed by IIT Delhi’s director has come up with two options: to exempt IITs from quotas by including them in the schedule to the 2019 law, which is applicable to institutions of excellence, research institutions and institutions of national and strategic importance; and to provide reservation to specified grades of assistant professors, taking the institution as a whole. Where candidates are not available in the latter case, the posts can be de-reserved in the subsequent year. An early decision must now be taken by the government without sacrificing equity principles.

Diversity achieved through affirmative action such as compensatory discrimination in favour of some classes of citizens corrects historical distortions. For it to be fully realised, however, the concomitant is massive investments in the education system at all levels, which can raise the capability of students. It is now widely recognised that substituting traditional privilege with opportunity and the right facilities dispels the myth of innate merit. Such an approach ensures justice for those who were deprived. The Ministry’s committee echoes this, when it recommends a government-sponsored preparatory programme at the IITs which can help candidates eligible for reservation to get acquainted with high quality academic work, and optionally prepare for a PhD if they aspire to be teachers. This is the imperative, considering that such graduates will help fill not just vacancies in the IITs, but also aid the large number of other technical education institutions that aspire to research excellence. Governments must aim for progressive redistribution, for which policy should actively expand equal opportunity, starting with a strong, liberal public school system. This will strengthen diversity, and lay the foundation for the kind of scholarship that institutions of excellence need.


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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 10:50:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/excellence-in-diversity-the-hindu-editorial-on-scrapping-of-reservation-in-iit-recruitment/article33349393.ece

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