New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) The 63-year-old Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur (IIT-KGP), the country's oldest, has been headless for almost a year now and the teachers and alumni say its high time a decision is taken on filling the post.
In an unusual step, teachers and alumni staged a hunger strike, silent march and other protests not just in the IIT-KGP campus, but also in Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore.
"We started the protest as it is high time that action is taken. A premier institution like IIT cannot remain without a director for so long," said Atul Bal, a member of the IIT-Kharagpur Alumni Association.
"There is an acting director, but not all decisions can be taken by him," Bal told IANS.
IIT Teachers Association general secretary Rajendra Singh said they had to resort to protest as their voice was not being heard.
"We are academicians, not politicians. We have lot of work at hand, but we had to keep everything aside and come forward," Rajendra Singh told IANS.
"We wrote letters to the HRD (human resource development) ministry to take the necessary steps. We even wanted to go to Delhi but we were not given an appointment. One cannot just wait and watch," he added.
"Our protest is to safeguard the interests of the institution. It has to sustain in today's competitive world and only a regular director can take policy decisions," he said.
IIT-KGP is the oldest of the now 16 IITs, founded in May 1950. It is also among the best, ranking 30th among Asian universities according to Times Higher Education survey.
Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, popularly called PPC, was chosen by a committee set up by the HRD ministry.
Chakrabarti's name was nearly finalized but the ministry's vigilance department said its views were not sought and pointed out his involvement in the Coalnet scam. However, IIT-Kharagpur said its board of governors had quashed the CBI report against Chakrabarti and others. Still, Chakrabarti's appointment was halted.
Coalnet was a Rs.28 crore project to enable data sharing between the coal ministry, Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiaries. It was awarded to IIT-Kharagpur. However, against the rules, the institute awarded the project to a third party owned by an alumnus.
The CBI and the CVC had probed the issue.
"We want a regular director, and we want PPC because he is one the most qualified academicians and was selected by HRD ministry's committee. The institute needs a director for stable policy decision making," Rajinder Singh said.
Asked if the situation may impact the quality or brand of the institution, he said students had been kept away from the entire affair.
"We do not want to disturb the students. But in the absence of a director, the decision making may be effected," Rajinder Singh said.
Some people smell a rat in the whole affair.
"We do smell a rat here because of the two others involved in the case, A.K. Bhowmick has already been made director of IIT-Patna. Therefore what is the problem with PPC," questioned V.K. Jaitly, president of Delhi wing of IIT-Kharagpur Alumni Association.
"There are other aspects to the issue. In such matters, the CVC should have come up with s report in two months. Why it is being delayed is not known to us," Bal said.
"We feel something is building. An appointment letter was issued, and this was after scrutiny. After that, the CVC came up with some observations," he added.
Rajinder Singh pointed out that the CBI had only fined Chakrabarti, so the issue was being blown out of proprtion.
"The board of governors, which is the highest decision-making body, cleared him twice. HRD ministry had given clearance, and then the matter is hanging with CVC," said Rajinder Singh.
According to CVC guidelines, matters with minor penalty must be resolved within two months of receiving statements. Alumni members say Chakrabarti had responded to the first CVC/CBI enquiry over four-and-a-half years ago.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)