From Saroj Sharma
After coming within affordable range of millions of aspiring management students, the premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are back to where they belonged-the rarified world of the elite.
The new Minister of Human
Resource Development, Arjun Singh, a seasoned Congressman known for his social concerns and who is no newcomer to this ministry, has taken no time at all to roll back the reforms his predecessor, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi had sought to bring into the education system in the country. Bending over backwards in an attempt to impart to these elitist institutes the autonomy that they had been demanding ever since Dr Joshi mooted the idea of ´affordable management education´ in November last year, Arjun Singh has virtually signalled a hands off policy for the IIMs.
Not surpris-ingly, in their board meetings held over the past ten days, all six IIMs have decided to revert to the old fee structure of Rs 1.5 lakh per annum as against Rs 30,000, that had been propo-sed by Dr Joshi´s team. What is really surprising is that while Arjun Singh is walking away with kudos for a job well done, it is Dr Joshi who is being held singularly responsible for attempts to snatch the autonomy of these so-called world-class institutes. What is conveniently being overlooked is the fact that lakhs of students across the country have been deprived easy access to quality education merely to prove that whatever the NDA government did was bad.
Comrades left singing hosannas to IIM elite.
At the same time, it is also unfortunate that no matter how good the intentions of Dr Joshi may have been when he sought to reduce the exorbitant fees charged by the IIMs, the execution of these intentions left much to be desired.
Said a member of the IIM, Ahmedabad, faculty, ?Though the motive behind the fee cut was noble and laudable, it turned into a messy fight between the government of the day and the IIMs because of the manner in which some officials tried to arm-twist us.?
It provided Arjun Singh with another chance to run down the system. But what many in the academic world now fear is the total unbridled autonomy which the IIMs have been empowered with. Even the very pro-poor stance which the IIMs seem to be taking with their much touted ´need-based scholarship sche-mes´ is fraught with dangers of being misused since there would be no checks and measures to ensure that these funds are actually passed on to the really needy students. ?With the IIM boards themselves in charge of screening applicants and granting scholarships, this leaves no scope for redressal by the poor deserving students who may not find a place in these institutes,? apprehended another acade-mician.
What is also frightening is that while all the six IIMs rallied together during the recent talks with the HRD Ministry with the older three IIMs, namely the Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bangalore promising to help the younger IIMs at Lucknow,
Indore and Kozhikode in ?every way possible?, the notion was quickly dispelled this weekend by the IIMA chairman, Narayana Murthy.
Murthy made it abundantly clear that this ´help´ would be non-financial in nature and would involve mere interchange of faculty. Interestingly, with corpuses swelling to over Rs 100 crores in the case of the IIMA, shouldn´t it be more generous in offering assistance to the other IIMs? ?IIMA is drawing up plans to start branches in foreign countries but cannot use some of its funds to upgrade fellow IIMs within the country,? rued yet another professor.
What is more, not only has the new HRD Minister undone the NDA´s efforts to facilitate quality education but is also blatantly doing what the same things it is accusing its predecessors of having done. From ousting senior bureaucrats in the HRD Ministry to appointing his own men to re-write text-books to replacing board members appointed by Dr Joshi in the IIMs with his own hand-picked favourites, Arjun Singh is busy p. Unfortunately, this approach will play havoc with the education system in the country with the major sufferers being GenNext.