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Joshi caught on IIM wrong foot

Feb. 7: The head of the panel whose recommendations Murli Manohar Joshi cited while ordering the fee slash at the Indian institutes of management today said his report does not cover the IIMs and the Indian institutes of technology.

“My report only talks about the institutions directly under the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). It does not include the IIMs and the Indian institutes of technology, which are directly administered by the HRD ministry,” U.R. Rao, committee chairman and former head of the space programme, told The Telegraph.

On Thursday, the human resource development ministry had issued an order slashing the annual fees at the country’s premier B-schools from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 30,000.

Distancing himself from the controversy, Rao said: “The report talks about a certain philosophy and not the exact amount of fees. Not all institutions need to charge the same.”

This is hardly different from what the IIMs are saying. The institutes argue that the facilities given to students cost about twice the fees they pay. Besides, they recover the amount they have to shell out in six to eight months of passing out.

With Rao himself denying proposing a slash, how come the HRD ministry was quoting his report to revise fees it claims are “exorbitant” and “unaffordable” for meritorious but poor students'

“You have to ask them,” said Rao.

HRD ministry officials declined comment, but IIM officials were busy drawing up strategies to take on the order.

“The decision will have similar implications for all the six institutes and so there is nothing at the moment that can disturb our unity,” said IIM Ahmedabad director Bakul Dholakia.

On whether the IIMs would take legal action, he said: “That decision can only be adopted by the boards after taking a comprehensive view of the order.”

IIM Ahmedabad chairman .R. Narayana Murthy expressed “disappointment” at the directive. “The order is ill-advised and unfortunate. It’s not based on facts and data,” he told The Telegraph.

“I will oppose the decision at the board meeting and vote against it,” he said. Murthy had met HRD minister Joshi on January 14 and sent a detailed report on January 29 to explain why the fees should not be slashed.

Recognising the role of the boards, he said: “I haven’t yet got in touch with the other chairpersons, but will contact them next week to discuss the implications of this order. I hope all the boards will take their decisions based on data and facts.”

With Murthy coming out openly against the directive and S M. Dutta, the head of the board of governors at IIM Bangalore, also reportedly toeing the same line, there is enough indication that the boards will not easily bow to Joshi. The ramifications of such a move are being weighed at the institutes with the help of legal experts.

“The chairpersons will have to play a crucial role now. It has been decided among the faculties across the institutes to influence the chairpersons jointly,” an IIM source said.

The alumni of the IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta are contemplating filing a PIL in the Supreme Court next week.

“Former finance minister P. Chidambaram, during whose time the IIMs raised their fees, has been contacted in London and he has agreed to take up the case,” a source said.

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