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IIM Calcutta plays deserter on fee

Calcutta, April 6: Breaking ranks with the country’s top two business schools, the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta today sought the company of Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode with its chairman accepting the Centre’s fee cut order.

Y.C. Deveshwar, who heads the IIMC board, said in a resolution draft: “…the government order may be implemented in the belief that it is binding on the institute.”

Members of the faculty were shocked since the resolution was a slap in the face of their opposition to human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi’s fee cut diktat.

They — speaking in the same voice as IIM Ahmedabad and Bangalore — resisted the order on the ground that it would denude the institutes’ financial strength, leaving them at the mercy of government benevolence and, therefore, interference.

Shekhar Chaudhury, the director of IIMC, said: “The resolution is not clear. We will examine whether the government order is binding on the institute.”

IIM Ahmedabad declined to accept the fee cut last week, showing that it did not believe the order to be “binding”. IIM Bangalore is expected to follow suit shortly.

That leaves Calcutta — so far mentioned in the same breath as Ahmedabad and Bangalore as the ABC of management education — in the same group as the IIMs at Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode which have accepted the fee cut.

Deveshwar, also the chairman of ITC Ltd, was given the responsibility of framing a resolution at a board meeting on March 26. The resolution did not indicate whether and when the institute would implement the order. Under rules, it has to be approved by the majority on the board.

The order to cut the annual fee at IIMs from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 30,000 has been challenged in the Supreme Court which will hold a hearing on April 8.

“The IIMs in Lucknow, Kozhikode and Indore have toed the government line and now Calcutta has accepted the cut. The HRD ministry will argue in court that the fee cut has been accepted by the majority,” said a source. Bangalore is the only IIM now that has not made its view known.

“The chances of Bangalore following the Ahmedabad line are high and we expect the resolution will be circulated on Thursday,” said an IIM source.

Deveshwar justified the resolution saying he had taken into account the government’s “assurance” of taking care of the financial consequences of a fee cut, and “explicit understanding” that it will not result in any infringement of autonomy.

The faculty members, however, felt betrayed. “We are deeply anguished. The resolution hasn’t taken care of the interest of the stakeholders, as promised by the chairman,” said Ashis K. Bhattacharyya, dean, planning and administration.

Even the state government, which has representatives on the board, is opposed to the order. “We can’t take cognisance of this order,” said Jawhar Sircar, higher education secretary.

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