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Joshi turns fee-cut gun on three more IIMs

New Delhi/Calcutta, March 11: The battle between the human resource development ministry and the Indian institutes of management is getting nastier by the day.

Murli Manohar Joshi’s ministry has opened new fronts — going beyond the frequent skirmishing with IIM Ahmedabad — by threatening action against the institutes at Calcutta, Bangalore and Lucknow if they are found guilty of violating the terms in the memoranda of association signed with the government.

Ministry officials said the three — like IIM Ahmedabad — raised fees without amending the rules in the memoranda that require them to enact a bylaw every time they effect an increase in fees.

None of the IIMs, except the relatively new institutes at Indore and Kozhikode, has done so, they added.

Reacting to the charges, an IIM official said these were nothing but “insignificant noises”.

“The decisions on fee hike were taken at the board meetings, where government representatives were also present. So, the government was also a party to the decisions,” the official added.

With escalating acrimony, the division among the IIMs has narrowed. Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode, which had mostly been with the government, have moved closer to Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta that have opposed the ministry move to cut tuition fees.

Joshi is pushing for a cut to Rs 30,000 from Rs 1.5 lakh a year, but the IIMs suspect this to be part of a bigger gameplan to make them reliant on government handouts and, therefore, vulnerable to interference.

“The IIMs in Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode are now opposing the fee slash directive and have decided to write letters to the government to review the decision,” said an IIM source.

At a meeting of the society, under which IIM Ahmedabad is registered, on Tuesday, the confrontation between the two sides came to a boil.

V.S. Pandey, a joint secretary in the ministry, reminded the members of the government’s power to take over the institute and its assets if it violated the norms of functioning under the memorandum of association.

Ministry officials said since 1961, IIM Ahmedabad has increased fees six times without informing the Centre.

The previous government might not have chosen to apply the rules, but the current dispensation is on firm legal ground if it wants to enforce them, they added.

They said that under the memorandum, it is the society — and not the board — which is empowered to raise fees. The hike also has to be endorsed by the Centre.

The ministry claims the fee increase decisions were taken by the board, and not the society, and they were not approved by the Centre.

It is not the fee hikes alone that are under scrutiny by the ministry, but other aspects of the memorandum also. For instance, IIM Ahmedabad has packed its society with members without checking their eligibility criteria, ministry officials said.

Of the 150 members, 20 are non-paying core members and the rest pay a lump sum to get into the society. The officials said the amount for IIM Ahmedabad society membership has jumped from Rs 25,000 to Rs 20 lakh in the last two decades.

Tuesday’s fiery and adjourned meeting of the society will be resumed, possibly on April 2.

“The meeting was adjourned as the society members wanted some more time to discuss the issue. Besides, in the absence of .R. Narayana Murthy (IIM Ahmedabad chairman), the society members didn’t want to shoot down the ministry’s fee slash proposal through voting,” said an institute source.

The Infosys chief, who is out of country, has been informed of the proceedings of the meeting where government representatives allegedly threatened the institute’s director, Bakul Dholakia, and other members of the society.

Yesterday, some members of the society revealed this at a news conference, apparently after consulting Narayana Murthy.

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