Illegal for IIM-A to Deny SC/ST/OBC Quotas for PhD: Researchers

IIM Fellow Siddharth Joshi says, “Level of caste exclusion in IIMs has parallels with apartheid-era South Africa.”

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Video editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

IIM Ahmedabad is breaking the law by not providing reservations to SC/ST/OBCs for its PhD course, argues an open letter sent to the business school by IIM Bangalore Associate Professor Deepak Malghan and IIM-B Fellow Siddharth Joshi.

Speaking to The Quint, Joshi explains the reasons behind sending the open letter and the basis of their arguments.

"Just this September, IIM-A has issued another admission notice, for the year 2019-20. Again, they’ve refused to follow reservations. Although the IIM Act grants autonomy to IIMs, they are not free to violate the law of the land. As far as the law of the land is concerned, they have to implement reservation in their doctoral programs."
Siddharth Joshi, Fellow at IIM Bangalore

IIM-A’s Opposition to Reservations in PhD Course

In 2018, IIM-A opposed a PIL seeking reservations in its doctoral course, the Fellow Programme in Management (FPM).

In an affidavit filed by the institute’s director Errol D’Souza in the Gujarat High Court, IIM-A argued, “Neither the Constitution of India nor any law envisages reservation for courses/programme at high level of specialisation.”

Though the Gujarat HC dismissed the PIL, Professor Malghan and Joshi argue that it is nonetheless illegal for IIM-A to not have quotas for PhDs.

Joshi explains, “In December 2017, Parliament passed the IIM Act, which designated all the IIMs as Central Educational Institutions (CEIs). What that means is the Central Educational Institutions Act, 2006 also applies to IIMs now. All the CEIs, which also include IIMs now, have to implement reservations in their academic programs for candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.”

He adds, “After the Act was passed, most of the IIMs advertised in their admissions notices that they will implementing reservations. However, IIM Ahmedabad refused to follow the Act.”

‘IIM-A’s Arguments Invalid’

How do you respond to IIM Ahmedabad’s arguments against implementing reservations in their doctoral course?

Siddharth Joshi: The first argument that IIM-A makes is that they do not receive funding from the Government of India and are thus not obliged to follow reservations.

Well, first of all, that is factually untrue. As we show in our EPW paper, IIM-A has received in recent years funding for their FPM program. Second of all, an institute may not be receiving funding for a particular year, but over a period of time, IIM-A has been built based on government funds, and they can’t just choose not to follow a law.

But what about their argument that their PhD course (FPM) is a super-specialised one and hence, should not have reservations?

Siddharth Joshi: IIM-Ahmedabad says that the FPM program is a very specialised program. But the FPM Program or the PhD program in IIM-A is no more specialised than the PhD program in Electrical, Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering in Indian Institute of Science, which has to follow reservation as part of the same Act.

‘Rohith Vemula’s Death Drove Me to Research Caste Representation in IIMs’

“It was Rohith’s death which made a lot of us look at the educational environment within higher educational institutes in India.”
“It was Rohith’s death which made a lot of us look at the educational environment within higher educational institutes in India.”
(Photo: Twitter)

Joshi speaks about what motivated him to begin researching caste disparities in the IIMs, “I was in IIM Bangalore’s Batch of 2017. It was in 2016 that Rohith Vemula passed away. The things that led to his death were things that people had not even started talking about as far as IIMs were concerned. It was his death which made a lot of us look at the educational environment within higher educational institutes in India. As I looked around, I realised that most of my colleagues, the Fellows at IIM Bangalore, belong to just one caste. They were all (mostly) Brahmins.”

The Damning Lack of Diversity

“As we started exploring more, we started filing RTIs at various IIMs, and to our utter shock, we figured out that across 13 IIMs, out of over 500 faculty members, only 2 belonged to SC/STs.”
Siddharth Joshi
Source: Research paper by Deepak Malghan and Siddharth Joshi (February 2017)
Source: Research paper by Deepak Malghan and Siddharth Joshi (February 2017)
(Photo: The Quint)

He continues, “We also found that one-third of all faculty members were actually recruited from the FPM programs of IIMs itself. And most of the IIMs at that point were not implementing reservations (for doctoral programs). So, because of lack of reservations at the doctoral level, there were not enough candidates at the level of faculty. That is why we started focusing on reservations at the level of the doctoral program.”

"If you look at the level of exclusion in IIMs that our data shows, there are a lot of parallels with the conditions that existed in apartheid-era South Africa."
Siddharth Joshi

But will IIM Ahmedabad take note of Malghan and Joshi’s concerns and change its policy, or will the plea by the researchers fall on deaf ears? For now, it seems like the latter.

(Note: The Quint has reached out to the IIM-A administration seeking their response to the issues raised in Prof Malghan and Joshi’s open letter. This article will be updated if and when they reply.)

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