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Joshi sharpens IIM scimitar

New Delhi, Dec. 30: Murli Manohar Joshi is not going to abandon the reins of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, much as it may want freedom.

Quite the contrary. The human resource development minister plans to squeeze the flow of its finances. There are also dark reminders that the Centre has in its quiver the takeover weapon.

“We are going to set up a committee to rationalise the fee structure,” he told The Telegraph.

Fees generate a large part of the IIMs’ revenue with each student paying Rs 1.5 lakh a year for a two-year course.

Joshi’s ministry feels IIM Ahmedabad can afford to slash its fees as it has a corpus of Rs 98 crore. It was on the strength of this kitty, generated out of income earned by it, that the governing board of the institute decided not to access the grant given by the Centre when it cleared the budget at a meeting last Saturday.

Joshi, however, said: “Where have they refused the money' In fact, they want more.”

It is possible that the decision taken by the board headed by Infosys chairman .R. Narayana Murthy may not have been communicated to the ministry yet.

IIM Ahmedabad’s move followed a running war with the ministry, which has been insisting that the institutes sign a memorandum of understanding with it. The IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta believe the document contains provisions that can be used to curtail their administrative, financial and even academic autonomy.

Joshi denied this. “The government has no intention of interfering in the academic autonomy of the IIMs, but all of them are accountable to the terms laid down in the memorandum of agreement signed by the board (of IIMs),” he said.

Clause 6 of the memorandum of understanding signed by IIM Ahmedabad and the Centre states: “If the central government is satisfied that the society or the institute is not functioning properly, then the central government shall have the power to take over the administration and the assets of the institute in consultation with (the) state government.”

The ministry is pushing the case for a “rationalisation” — euphemism for slashing — of the fees by citing that a student at an Indian institute of technology pays between Rs 8,000 and 9,000 a year for postgraduation, masters and research courses.

Between 1998 and 2002, central funding to the six IIMs has increased from Rs 37.80 crore to Rs 102.35 crore. The student intake in all six totals 900. “They must increase the number of students. The student-teacher ratio of 1:3 to 1:5 is absurd,” Joshi said.

The argument ignores the reality that the higher the number of students to a teacher, the lower the quality of education.

Joshi denied the Centre ever wanted the IIMs to change their course content.

“But I have been telling them that you must produce managers who can also handle Indian affairs like managing hospitals, co-operatives, educational institutions. IIMs are not there just to produce managers for corporate institutions.”

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