The Lok Sabha today passed a bill which provides for giving autonomy to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) by restricting the government role in their functioning. The Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, grants statutory powers to all the IIMs in their running including appointment of directors, faculty members besides giving them powers to award degrees instead of post graduate diplomas.
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar described the bill as "historic" and expressed confidence that it will enable the IIMs as well as the education system to prosper. "It is greater autonomy and in that direction we want to go," he said while replying to a debate on the bill.
Justifying the decision to restrict the government role in the IIMs, Javadekar said institutes like MIT and Harvard are big and world class because they are free and autonomous. He appreciated the fact that 22 members from various political parties spoke in favour of autonomy for the 20 IIMs and said it showed that the country is changing.
"We are giving real freedom to our institutions. We must trust our best brains," the minister said.
He said it is already established that the IIMs are the institutions of excellence and "we must accord them the status of national importance".
On the move to restrict the government role in the IIMs, which earned him a rare praise from the Opposition parties in the House, Javadekar said that while people mostly do not give up their chair, "my thinking is different".
There will be parliamentary accountability, he said, adding, "I told all the IIM directors in my recent meeting that this will be our last meeting as a (minister being the) chairman."
With regard to the provision that will enable the IIMs to grant degrees and doctorates, Javadekar said a fellow of the IIM is not regarded as PhD and needs to go to foreign countries to do research. "Now they will do research in India...To all IIMs in India, I can now say that it is your's. Let us make a definitive change," he said, adding “Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision is also to give real autonomy to higher institutions.”
Earlier, participating in the debate, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said it was a "remarkable moment when a minister surrenders (his) powers". He said other ministers in the government should draw inspiration from Javadekar in doing so.
He suggested the government should have some say in determining fee structure in the IIMs as higher fees may badly hit students from the poor families. He also pitched for clarity in having reservation in recruitment of faculty staff from SC and ST community.
Tharoor also slammed the government for removing the name of Rajiv Gandhi from the name of the Shillong IIM, saying it is "petty" of the government to stoop to such level. Javadekar responded to this by saying that none of the IIMs, except that in Shillong, had the name of any person attached, and there needed to be uniformity.
"Rajiv ji's name is at several other places...You (Congress) used to give names to only one family but we are giving others also," he added, taking a dig at the Congress.
Trinamool Congress leader Sougata Roy also praised the government for bringing the bill, saying it will further improve the functioning of the IIMs. He said the fees in the IIMs were very high and urged the government to see that this does not deter the deserving students from admission.
M B Rajesh (CPI-M) also raised the issue of high fees in IIMs, saying the autonomous status should not lead to money-making by these institutions. He sought to know from the government why it had appointed directors on the Boards of 10 IIMs on February 10, 2017, just a day after the IIM Bill was tabled in Parliament.
Nagendra Kumar Pradhan (BJD) said the IIMs charge fees between Rs 9 lakh and Rs 20 lakh and because of the limited number of seats these institutes have, students have to opt for private MBA institutes. Pradhan sought to know from the government if it was aware of the fate of the students who pass out from the 5,500 private business schools and get paid a salary of as low as Rs 10,000 per month and are unable to repay the education loan.
Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) also appreciated Javadekar's move to grant the status of autonomous institution to the IIMs. He sought the minister's attention towards private institutions demanding money from students at the time of admission.
B Ravindra Babu (TDP) too appreciated the HRD minister, saying the MPs in the House feel he is a "dynamic minister" and has been very liberal towards giving institutes of national importance to the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh.
K Hari Babu (BJP) too praised Javadekar, saying everyone wants "power to be in their pocket" but the HRD minister has given up the position of being the chairperson on IIM Boards.
To a question on Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA), the HRD minister said within one month, the first application will be cleared and USD 3 billion will be put in three years into the higher institutions.
Enlisting a number of measures taken by the government for the education sector, he said in Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), Rs 4000 crore have been invested and it has resulted in good development of infrastructure. Under IMPRINT, he said the government has received 1000 proposals, in which 200 have been finalised.
The minister said that union cabinet would soon take a decision about a policy for setting up 20 world-class universities in the country, ten each in private and public sector. They would acquire ranking of first 200 and also they will go in first 100, he added.
Informing about his recent talk with IIM-A Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, the minister said after passage of this bill, they can give variable pay package to a director. "We are also attracting best researchers who are doing research in foreign countries," he said, adding faculty issue will also be resolved.
He also said that expenditure on these institutions is not coming down but increasing. It was Rs 320 crore in 2014-15, Rs 460 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 722 crore in 2016-17.
Somebody raised that 14 institutions do not have directors but this is wrong as only four do not have that and things are at an advanced stage on this issue, he said. "As far as fees is concerned, no genuine student who has got admission or eligible to get admission, will be denied admission. The government is taking care of it. The poor will not be deprived of education," he added.
He said IIMs do provide scholarships and there is an initiative of 'earn while you learn'. "We will ensure that no genuine student loses chance of education just because he does not have money," he added.
Referring to the demand for reservation, he said it is already there for students and "we are trying for faculty. Last week only, we have issued a specific direction and I hope this will be the last direction. After passage of this bill, we will not pass any direction, they will be of their own."
The direction is that "we must make positive and affirmative action and positive efforts to fill up SC and ST and other reservations in faculties is very important. ..we have lined up 5-10 methods of how we can do it. It will be walk in interview, 24 hrs advertisement on display," he said.
He said the "best of the best" SC and ST students get so many offers elsewhere also and then they compare packages. "Naturally anybody will do that, he added.
The minister expressed confidence that after the passage of the bill, more and more students from the SC and ST communities would join as faculty "because I am of the belief that wisdom is not confined to any particular caste."
IUML leader E T Mohammad Basheer suggested that there should be reservation for minorities in the IIMs. Responding to this, Javadekar said, "We have a dichotomy. Basheer ji talked about minority reservation and referred to Sachar committee. But there is no reservation in minority institutes. This also has to be taken into account. This is small but important issue."
Referring to the fees issue raised by some members, the minister said in Delhi University, fees is just Rs 15 per month for both poor and rich. He also added that IIMs in areas like Sambalpur and Vizag will soon be operational. On the issue of mother tongue, Javadekar cited the example of Israel and said people there study Hebrew also, then why not in India.