HRD ministry softens stand against IIT-Delhi director

Blaming director Shevgaonkar for opening a Mauritius campus not the solution, ministry officials say

Prashant K. Nanda
Updated31 Dec 2014
IIT-Delhi has clarified that the International Institute of Technology Research Academy in Mauritius is not an extension campus of its own but an &#8216;independent research academy&#8217;. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint<br />
IIT-Delhi has clarified that the International Institute of Technology Research Academy in Mauritius is not an extension campus of its own but an &#8216;independent research academy&#8217;. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: The human resources development (HRD) ministry on Tuesday softened its stand against a director of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, over the opening of a research academy in Mauritius.

Climbing down from its earlier position that IIT-Delhi director R.K. Shevgaonkar has flouted rules in opening a “Mauritius campus”, at least three ministry officials said that “blaming the director may not be the solution.”

“The resignation of the director has not been accepted yet by the ministry. The opening of a campus in Mauritius may have flouted the IIT Act, yet the director of an institute cannot be held responsible completely,” said one of the three officials, requesting anonymity.

“Mauritius is a friendly country and there should not be much problem in helping them with an institute. But for any procedural mistake, the board of governor of the IIT, IIT council and the HRD ministry need to share the responsibility,” the second official said, also requesting anonymity.

India signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mauritius to help them open an International Institute of Technology Research Academy (IIT RA) during former HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju’s visit to the country in November 2013.

“Two MoUs were signed during this visit. The first MoU is between IIT Delhi and Mauritius Research Council for setting up an International Institute of Technology Research Academy (IIT RA). The aim of the IIT RA is to provide world-class, research-based educational platform for full-time and part-time post graduate research leading to MS (Research) and Ph.D degrees to be awarded by IIT-Delhi in identified areas (clusters),” according to an HRD ministry statement dated 21 November 2013.

Mint has reviewed a copy of the statement.

The third ministry official said that this statement indicates that IIT-Delhi’s plan to grant degrees to IIT RA students may not be viewed as a mistake of the institute director.

Meanwhile, Vijay P. Bhatkar, chairman of the IIT Delhi board of governors, met President Pranab Mukherjee. The President is the visitor of all IITs.

Officials in the ministry said that Bhatkar’s meeting was cordial and they may have discussed issues relating to the row over the director’s resignation.

On Monday, IIT-Delhi had clarified that IIT RA is not an extension campus of its own but an “independent research academy” and IIT-Delhi’s role was purely “advisory in nature”.

There is no financial commitment on the part of IIT-Delhi, and the original proposal of starting the academy was initiated on the recommendation of the IIT Council in its meeting held on 21 January 2011.

“The final MoU was okayed by MHRD and was signed in the presence of the then Hon’ble HRM and the functionaries from MHRD and the Indian High Commission, on 19-11-2013 in Mauritius,” IIT Delhi had said.

On Tuesday, IIT Delhi faculty members also rallied behind the institute's decision and said: “The faculty of IIT-Delhi stands by the decisions that its administration has taken to uphold the autonomy of the Institute. We request the director, IIT-Delhi to withdraw his resignation”.

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