Sibal (second from left) with IIT faculty members in Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 2: A six-week deadlock between the human resource development ministry and the IIT faculty over pay eased today after minister Kapil Sibal assured the protesting teachers that the institutes would be allowed to tweak controversial norms.
As reported by The Telegraph last Friday, the HRD minister told faculty representatives that a new pay regime that triggered the dispute was merely an advisory, and need not be followed rigidly.
The meeting, that lasted around an hour, ended an impasse that began after the HRD ministry issued a notification snipping salaries proposed by a central pay panel under former Indian Institute of Science director Goverdhan Mehta.
There is no longer any stand-off. We are sitting together, Sibal joked, seated next to Dr M. Thenmozhi, professor at IIT Madras and the president of the All India IIT Faculty Federation that spearheaded the protests.
The faculty federation is tomorrow meeting directors of all the IITs in Delhi to formalise a pay and recruitment structure based on Sibals assurances.
IIT boards can absorb fresh PhDs into their regular faculty for a shorter time than the three-year contract stipulated by the HRD ministry regulation if the candidate is extremely bright, the minister said.
The three-year contract period can also be relaxed for subjects for which qualified faculty are rare and teaching vacancies are piling up, Sibal added.
A regulation requiring that at least 10 per cent of the total faculty strength be hired on contract can also be relaxed by individual IITs.
The IIT council, the HRD minister said, will revise a 40 per cent cap on professors eligible for higher pay if the institutes find, in coming years, that the cap is stifling the progress of other bright teachers.
Sibal said the ministry would now also set up a mechanism for him to regularly and directly interact with IIT faculty instead of communicating through IIT directors as is largely the practice at present.
The controversial pay structure first reported by this newspaper on August 18 led to protests that saw IIT teachers boycotting classes for the first time in the history of the premier engineering schools.
The teachers, on two occasions last month, also went on hunger strike to protest what they argued were pay anomalies reflecting a lack of respect for the IIT faculty.
The dispute witnessed the HRD ministry revising its original pay notification on twice without convincing the teachers that their demands had been met.
A key demand of the teachers of higher pay for assistant professors, the lowest ranking regular faculty members was accepted by the ministry in a revised notification on September 16.
This notification, however, did not address other demands that the faculty argued were critical to the future of the IITs. The September 16 notification also introduced a controversial eligibility criterion for IIT professors.
The institutes, this norm said, could only hire as professors those who had taught for at least four years as associate professors at a select band of Indian institutes.
This norm effectively meant that the best brains in the world even Nobel Laureates could no longer be hired as professors at the IITs unless they had previously taught in these institutes. This eligibility criterion has also now been relaxed.