The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IIMs work behind the scenes

Calcutta, Jan. 12: The Indian institutes of management are tapping their alumni to present before the Prime Minister’s Office and senior coalition leaders the schools’ case against the pressure tactics of the human resource development ministry.

Murli Manohar Joshi, the human resource development minister, has been trying to get the institutes to slash fees, increase students and gain control over the common admission test.

Matters had come to a head about two weeks ago with resignation letters having reportedly been drafted at IIM Ahmedabad.

But a bouquet of recent developments has prompted the IIMs to choose tact over tussle. The key reasons for a rethink were reservations among the other premier IIMs in Calcutta and Bangalore about an open showdown, the strong indication of early general elections and hints from the PMO that Joshi might be asked to go slow.

“The ministry can’t slash the fees without an approval from the cabinet unless it passes a bill in Parliament and gets absolute control over the IIMs,” a source in one of the institutes said.

No one from the political establishment has come forward openly in support of the IIMs, but the business schools have done their groundwork to ensure that Joshi will find it difficult to secure cabinet backing.

“Besides the PMO, some cabinet ministers have been sounded and the reaction till now has been positive,” a B-school official added.

With the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government sounding the election bugle, the institutes are convinced that the HRD ministry’s plans will be pushed back by five to six months. “They are getting busy with the polls and we don’t think they can force anything on us before the general elections are over,” said the source.

With polls in the air and reassuring signals coming from the top, the IIMs feel that they can breathe easy and formulate a long-term strategy.

“Though we expect a downward revision in the fees, it can’t be as low as Rs 6,000, as has been suggested by the U.R. Rao Committee. The institutes will collapse then,” the source said. The unofficial word from the ministry is that the annual IIM fee can be pegged at Rs 20,000.

According to an IIM estimate, the fee reduction will lead to a Rs 800-crore loss for the 400-odd management institutes.

Students on the ABC (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta) campuses have opposed the move to slash fees. “The students here, who have ordinary middle-class backgrounds, aver that the fees can be hiked even higher as the quality of jobs they get and the international facilities they enjoy are worth way more than the money they pay,” a joint statement said.

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