Are IIMs Ignoring Reservation? Alumni Letter Raises Valid Points

Global IIM alumni network raises concerns about the under-representation of SCs, STs, and OBCs at premier B-schools

5 min read

Global IIM Alumni Network raises concerns about the under-representation of reserved category at premier B-schools.

Days after an appeal by the Global IIM Alumni Network to ensure diversity and proportional representation of SC/ST and OBC members at the Indian Institutes of Management, an IIM-Bangalore professor said that the authorities “have devised ingenious ways to skirt constitutional mandates.”

“The central problem is that IIMs have completely abdicated their responsibility as a public institution,” Deepak Malghan, assistant professor who teaches at the Centre for Public Policy, IIM Bangalore, told The Quint.

Source: Research paper by Deepak Malghan and Siddharth Joshi (February 2017).
Source: Research paper by Deepak Malghan and Siddharth Joshi (February 2017).
(Infographic: Saumya Pankaj/ The Quint)

The Global IIM Alumni Network, a group of around 250 IIM graduates, in a letter dated 27 September, has urged the President and Prime Minister “to make IIMs socially responsible” by implementing the provisions of the quota system applicable in other institutions of higher education.

The letter refers to the diversity data from top 10 IIMs – obtained as a result of filing RTI applications – expressing serious concerns over the IIM 2017 Bill that was passed by Lok Sabha on 28 July 2017. The bill will give more power to the governing body at IIMs in financial as well as administrative areas.

“Premier public teaching institutions such as the IIMs have constitutional and moral duties to set a precedence in implementing the constitutionally mandated reservation programmes for the people from the marginalised communities,” says the letter that has been endorsed by the Ambedkar International Mission, Dr Ambedkar Association of North America, Boston Study Group, Begumpura Society of New York, and nine other Indian as well as foreign groups working for the welfare of Dalits.

Talking about the lopsided representation of castes among the IIM faculty and Fellowship Programme in Management students, Arun Khobragade, alumnus of IIM Calcutta (2001 batch) and a representative of the Global Alumni Network said:

IIMs have to abide by the Constitution of India, but the provisions (of reservation) are not being followed. Even the advertisements don’t mention anything about SC/ST candidates. Globally, institutes like Harvard follow principles of diversity and ensure proportional representation of Asians, Latin Americans, etc.

IIMs Don’t Follow Reservation Policy

Some issues mentioned in the letter – a copy of which has been sent to Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, all MPs, National Commission of Scheduled Castes, and National Commission of Scheduled Tribes – include:

1) Inadequate representation of SC/ST/OBC members among faculty and FPM students

2) No provision for SC/ST/OBC members in the Board of Governors, an administrative body that will look after the functioning of IIMs as per the IIM Bill 2017

3) No mention of SC/ST/OBC reservation by the IIMs in their admission brochure


Study Suggests Under-Representation of SCs/STs and OBCs

Glaring loopholes in the IIM Bill 2017 with no mandatory provision for quota is being viewed as the first step towards autocracy by the esteemed institutes. Deepak Malghan, along with Siddharth Joshi, a doctoral student at IIM Bangalore, published a research paper in February 2017 on faculty composition at IIMs.

Their findings, based on RTIs filed at 13 IIMs, revealed that there were only two SC and five OBC members among 233 faculty members at six IIMs (Indore, Kozhikode, Rohtak, Raipur, Ranchi, Kashipur) that chose to share information about caste-based identity of teaching staff.

IIM Calcutta, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, and IIM Lucknow do not maintain faculty social group data, as per the RTI response in June 2016. IIM Shillong and IIM Tiruchirapalli didn’t respond to RTI requests, while IIM Udaipur feigned ignorance on SC/ST representation.

While the faculty and the batch of students pursuing FPM (Fellow Programme in Management) do not seem to give enough space to marginalised sections, Malghan says even the flagship course at IIMs, the PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management), suffers from the same problem.

Actual inclusion is something that is at best a work in progress. From several detailed interviews with alumni and current PGP (MBA) students, my co-author Siddharth Joshi and I have found that IIMs need to pay far more attention to the question of inclusion than they currently do.
Deepak Malghan, Centre for Public Policy, IIM Bangalore

There was no response to emails sent to the concerned directors at IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Kashipur, and IIM Indore at the time of writing this story.

Arguments Against Reservation

Reservation has been a contentious issue in India with those opposed to the policy arguing that there can’t be any substitute to merit. Mohandas Pai, former director of Infosys and chairman, Manipal Global Education Services, in an article in the Economic Times (dated 17 April 2007), argued:

A large quota system inevitably hurts merit. If we accept that any society needs its best and brightest to compete in a fair and equal ecosystem, reservations of any sort will not provide the solution.

Similarly, Rakesh Basant, professor of economics at IIM Ahmedabad, has in a research paper concluded that reservation has had little impact on the participation of OBCs in higher education. Basant insists on improving the infrastructure of education at the primary level for better results. In an interview to The Indian Express (published on 11 July 2017), he said:

If the marginalised do not have decent access to school education, they will not become eligible to go to college. Non-availability of school infrastructure is critical before affirmative action in higher education can become effective.

Autonomy Gives Leeway to IIMs

In 2006, Arjun Singh, the HRD Minister in UPA I government, sent a proposal to extend 22.5 percent reservation meant for the SC/ST communities to OBC (Other Backward Classes) category. Thus came the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006 that brought up reservation to 49.5 percent in higher education institutions that were dependent on the government for financial aid.

For faculty positions, as per the University Grants Commission guidelines, while 22.5 percent reservation is applicable at the level of assistant professor, associate professor and professor for OBCs, 27 percent reservation is applicable only at the level of assistant professor.

But here lies the catch that makes it easy to overlook mandatory provisions of reservation – IIMs are not governed by the UGC and are autonomous institutions that come under the regulatory purview of the HRD Ministry.

In a letter dated 19 April 2017, KK Sharma, Secretary, Higher Education Department, HRD Ministry, urged the IIM directors to take corrective measures to improve the under-representation of SCs/STs/OBCs .

“I would like you to take up this issue in all earnest and take steps to see that SC/ST/OBC categories are adequately represented in the teaching posts,” the letter said, suggesting that a proposal sharing the roadmap for achieving the desired results be sent to the Ministry within a month.

Even as the IIM Bill 2017 awaits clearance in Rajya Sabha and ascent from the President, fears about the IIMs becoming sophisticated, out-of-reach centres of learning with little space for members from marginalised sections loom large.

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