‘They say fund us but there should be no regulation’

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Kapil Sibal holds his ground even as IIT professors are up in arms over the latest pay order. Divya Gupta gets the HRD Minister’s take

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

IIT professors were hoping for a “big push” for hiring and scholastic pay, etc. Instead, they say they have got something they can’t show to anyone.
Basically, they want a scholastic allowance without reference to performance. What I’m trying to do is to promote excellence and these guys are trying to destroy it. For eg. We are going to have a PRIS — performance-related incentive scheme. We have sought proposals from them. They say, no. Give everybody a scholastic allowance.

They argue the DRDO [Defence Research and Development Organisation] gets it.
If they want the DRDO system, fine. They want the best of both worlds. In the DRDO, it takes 12 years to get scholastic pay and they don’t have the IIT pay scales.

A major sticking point is that 10 percent of all new hires should be “assistant professors on contract”.
Which university in the world – Harvard, MIT, Stanford – hires PhDs and makes them permanent faculty members immediately on hiring? It takes 20 years to get a tenured appointment at Harvard. They all have to be on contract. We say that you want to hire a PhD with three years thesis experience, you can absorb him. If you want to hire a PhD with no teaching experience, put him on contract. This is not interference. It is setting standards of excellence.

The pay order proposal says only 40 percent of the full professors can be promoted to a new pay grade.
In the UGC system it’s 10 percent. The Govardhan Mehta Committee which is an independent panel said after 10 years of experience, it should be three percent of the entire faculty. We have provided for a lot more.

The professors say what about the other 60 percent. Is there any assessment to show they are non-performing?
Have they conducted an inquiry to say that all 100 percent are performing? The system is meant to promote excellence. When you say 40 percent will get it, it means that someone will work harder. He will say, look I must beat the other guy so that I come into a level where people recognize my merit and I get that extra [Rs] 12,000 grade. If you make everything equal, then he won’t work extra hard. Isn’t that how incentives work everywhere?

What I am trying to do is promote excellence and these guys are trying to destroy it

The IITs need 2,000 new faculty members over the next 5 years. How do you ensure quality and meet the shortfall?
How do you maintain quality if you hire an IITian without finding out how good he is? Nowhere in the world can anyone get absorbed unqualified and without work experience. You take the private sector, you take any sector. And if the world outside the IIT is so fabulous then why are people not leaving the IIT? The present pay scales are much higher than before, going up to Rs 80,000. It’s never happened before. When the pay scales were almost half, did anybody leave the IIT system?

IIT professors say the new pay order reduces their flexibility to hire and makes them non-competitive.
This is all about patronage. This is all about power. What has this got to do with independence? Ask them have I ever made a phone call to them? Have I ever interfered in their hiring processes? Have I ever said whom you should promote? Who should be part of the 40 percent? Look, we fund them 100 percent. They are saying fine, you fund us but there should be no regulation.

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