IIT-Madras violating SC/ST admission reservation rules, says students’ body

An SC/ST/OBC cell should be set up to ensure reservation in admissions and address caste discrimination on the campus, said a member of ChintaBAR, the students’ body in IIT-Madras.
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On July 12, ChintaBAR, an independent students’ body in IIT-Madras in Chennai, petitioned the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), regarding the violation of reservation norms and the absence of a support system for students from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. The same day, members of the NCSC, including the Vice-Chairperson, visited the IIT Madras campus. The representatives of ChintaBAR met NCSC members and raised concerns regarding the violations in implementing reservations in PhD and Masters programmes.

ChintaBAR, established in 2014, informed NCSC that although reservations are applicable to all academic programmes, they are not being followed in many programmes, especially at the postgraduate and doctoral level. In the petition to the NCSC, the students submitted the data of these reservation violations, which they gathered through RTIs and other media reports. The reservation policy of IIT-Madras for OBC is 27%, 15% for SC category and 7.5% for ST category.

“Repeated violation of SC admission quota was observed in MTech, MBA, MSc and PhD programmes during the last 10 years, while ST quota was found unfilled during multiple academic years in almost all the programmes. No ST admissions were recorded in MBA and MS programmes for many years. Violation of Other Backward Class (OBC) reservations was also observed, in fewer numbers,” read the petition.

The students’ body further alleged that the reservation is non-existent in research programmes at IITM-PhD and MSc programmes. Besides, in the teaching faculty composition, members from the SC communities account for 2.7% of the total strength, 0.5% from the ST category and 10.4% from the OBC category.

The SC/ST research scholars are underrepresented, alleged the petition. Of the 2,476 MSc admissions in the last 10 years, only six ST and 69 SC research scholars were admitted. Likewise, among the 4,281 PhD admissions, only 35 ST and 271 SC were admitted. This exposes that the marginalised groups are not part of research activities at many departments of IIT-M, the students pointed out.

On February 8 this year, the Union Ministry for Education submitted in Lok Sabha the PhD admission details for 2020 of every department in IIT-M. According to the ministry data, 13 out of the total 16 departments did not fulfil the SC reservations, 14 departments in the case of ST reservations and 10 departments in the case of OBC reservations. The department of Applied Mechanics and Electrical Engineering did not admit even a single SC candidate. Five departments — Chemistry, Aerospace, Biotechnology, Mechanical and Mathematics — did not admit even a single ST candidate in the 2020 admissions.

Interestingly, the Computer Science and Engineering department appointed a single ST candidate in 2020, making it presumably the first and only ST admission in the last six years. Further, the top five departments — Civil, Chemistry, Electrical, Physics and Aerospace — which accounts for 49% of total PhD admissions in 2020, had an ST representation of 1.2%, which is much lower than the institute’s average of 2.5%, the petition read.

“The rationalisation shared by many, citing the fewer number of total admissions (from these communities) as the reason for lower SC and ST admissions, does not stand when the admission figures are closely monitored,” the students’ body said.

The petition also pointed out flaws in the PhD and MS (by research) admissions, where, through the RTI Act, it was found that there is a trend of disproportionate elimination of SC, ST and OBC applicants, compared to students from the general category, in the selection process.

What can be done

In the petition, the students’ body sought to set up SC/ST/OBC cells to ensure the implementation of reservation norms, apart from addressing the caste-based discrimination in the institute.

Most important of all, the petition urged the NCSC to address the academic difficulties of students from marginalised groups in IIT-M. Due to several hurdles faced by such students, it is noted that a large share of SC/ST students under extension has been unable to finish their course on time, pointing out the difference in academic outcomes.

Further, according to the survey conducted in 2017 by IIT-M’s student media body, The Fifth Estate, it was found that students from SC/ST backgrounds report mental health issues they experience. The students’ body also raised a concern regarding allowances given to SC/ST/OBC students, under the government scholarship, which is currently Rs 250 per month. The body demanded the allowances be raised to a minimum of Rs 1,000 per month.

“Further, admissions of SC/ST students should be increased to reach the mandated 15%,” a member of ChintaBAR told TNM. “An internal panel at IIT-M with faculty, non-teaching staff and students must also be set up to monitor admission procedures.”

Speaking about the caste discrimination reported on campus, the member said, “A support structure with staff and students is paramount to address this issue. If a cell is formed, the complaints can be filed and an inquiry can be held.”

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