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  • Anil Wagde

In defense of Reservation for Faculty in IIMs

- By Anil Wagde


Ask any IIM professor, “If one were to have a competition restricted to ‘3% of the total population’ instead of ‘the entire population’, which will have better outcome?” In my mind this is the moot question. Less than 10% of Indian social groups account for over 95% of all faculty members at IIMs, and this might be generous for anecdotal accounts suggest an even narrower pool of upper castes account for vast majority of faculty positions. If this is indeed the story of post independent India even after 70 years of government imposed affirmative action, then something is not working. If the so-called self-governing market forces are not catering to the 97% of the population, then government must intervene to correct these imbalances. Mind you, this restatement had to be made, despite it being the law. These “elites” have deliberately not implemented the law. It is good that the government this time has ordered these institutes.


Some IIMs are purporting the “Cricket Team Selection” argument. A small region called Vidarbha became Ranji champion. Vidarbha Cricket Association set out a program to find the talent in the interiors of Vidarbha, brought players from interiors of Vidarbha to residential academy in Nagpur. A minion became champion because of equal opportunity to people from interior areas, who without proper facilities would not have had the chance to play for Vidarbha. At national level, there was a time when more than half the team would be from Mumbai. India didn't become the world champion then. When the players from tier two towns like Ranchi, Meerut and Nagpur were inducted into the team, India became a world champion. Today the Indian team is diverse, both by region and caste. And all of this is on merit. Only when we widen the catchment area, the results of the competition will improve. We need to make sure that everyone has “equal” chance of winning. By the way, South Africa provides reservation for black Africans at the domestic level. It is mandated that the team have six players of colour. While some may laugh when Social Welfare minister Athwale speaks, but he should be taken seriously when he asks for reservation in the cricket team.


When US Supreme Court upheld affirmative action, the main objective was to make the classroom discussions wholesome by ensuring that the classrooms reflect true composition of the society. This same argument needs to be extended to the other side in the classroom. Until and unless teachers also represent the society, how will the classroom discussions become wholesome. If the classroom is not inclusive (diverse students and teachers), then we run the risk of forming elitist institutions, which will be cut off from the ground realities. I still remember IIM Calcutta Director’s address to our batch. He said, the gap between poor and rich is continuously increasing. He warned that if this gap continues to grow, it can lead to catastrophic event, which severely disrupts the progress of the nation. Democracy is a means of achieving change in peaceful way. And the democratic forces have acted to ensure inclusivity in the teaching staff.


IIMs were nurtured by government. Now IIMs do not like government interference and hence want to increase fees, so that they are not dependent on government money. This is another way of depriving the poor of quality education. Today the fees are sky rocketing due to lobbying by these teachers, who are more interested in their own welfare than what is needed for the society and the nation. The faculty of IIMs have deviated from the “common good” to “protecting their salaries and seeking independence from the government”. This is how elitist think. Unless the teaching staff comes from the deprived sections of the society, there will be no one to fight for the deprived society.


Incidentally these “elites” of the society had opposed access to education to women and to SCST for centuries to keep it meritorious. After reservations, these same “elites” worried about dilution of merit. However, there is no proof of dilution of merit due to reservation. The report from IIM placement offices found no difference between the placement packages of reserved and non-Reserved students. Hence this dilution of merit argument is a bogie. Let’s look at the percentage of women in IITs. It is less than 10%. Should it not be 50%? What prevents girl’s ratio from reaching 50% is, years of deprivation. We should be able to either correct these factors or else provide corrective action in the form of reservation to girls. Their situation is exactly like that of SCST. By not enabling girls, we are denying 50% of the population to participate in the national discourse. Look at how elites come up with “instruments of exclusion”. By making NEET exams mandatory across the nation, again the education is getting out of reach for the poor. How? Just when the rural masses were catching up on cracking the 12th exams, these elites came up with NEET. To crack NEET or JEE one requires extensive coaching. Rural schools must constantly play the catch up game. TN government study showed, the selection of the poor and rural people has diminished post implementation of NEET. Till the development reaches everyone, government must make conscious effort to include the deprived - rural, women and lower castes. This will indeed benefit the society and the nation.


I studied at IIM Calcutta. The professor who interviewed me taught us a subject. I had done a project along with my wing-mate. The project was conceived by me, and I had done at least half the work, if not more. We knew that project had turned out well. Professor was clearly impressed. Since the professor knew that I come from reserved category, had the audacity to specifically ask me ‘how much did I contribute?’. Teammate and I, both were taken aback by this question. Of course, myself and the teammate told that we both had worked hard for the project. Such bias and discrimination are unfortunately standard practice on Indian campuses resulting in lower sessional and practical marks.

These elite institutes will find ways to defy such orders. To deal with willful defiance government should invoke “SCST Atrocity Act”. We recently met IIM Calcutta Director urging him to implement faculty reservation. He asked us to show him the letter that mandates faculty reservation. We had to politely tell him that onus of showing ‘exemption from reservation’ letter was on him. We are seeing similar flouting by IIM Ahmedabad for the PhD program. This institute remains the only institute to oppose reservation for their PhD course. Government must issue a directive to all IIMs that they must follow reservations in their PhD programs as well. For if reservation in PhD is not provided, how will they get the candidates for faculty positions?

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