The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IIMs parry Joshi thrust

Calcutta, Feb. 1: A meeting convened out of the blue to persuade the Indian institutes of management to toe the human resource development ministry’s line ended where it began with the six directors not seeing eye to eye with the minister.

The directors received intimation of the Saturday meeting in Shastri Bhavan late on Friday afternoon. No agenda — usually such meetings are called for a specific purpose — was mentioned in the letter to the directors from V.S. Pandey, joint secretary and in-charge of technical education in Murli Manohar Joshi’s ministry.

“The timing of the meeting — barely a week before the dissolution of Parliament — is intriguing. It seems Joshi wanted to make one more attempt before becoming caretaker minister,” an IIM source said.

But the meeting, attended by Joshi, Pandey and the six directors, did not end the way the minister wanted.

The directors — Bakul Dholakia (Ahmedabad), Prakash Apte (Bangalore), Shekhar Chaudhuri (Calcutta), A. Devi Singh (Lucknow), A.H. Kalro (Kozhikode) and S.S. Sudharssanam (Indore) — made their case against the ministry’s proposals. They said they would get back to the government after taking up the Joshi wish list with their respective boards.

From reducing fees to increasing seats to introducing courses with an Indian context — the hour-long meeting traversed an entire gamut of issues responsible for the IIM-HRD stand-off over the past year.

Talks focused on money matters with the IIMs countering the ministry’s suggestion to reduce annual fees from around Rs 1.25 lakh to Rs 6,000. The directors were unanimous that “across-the-board reduction in fees will not serve any purpose”.

Besides, the IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta are still opposed to the idea of capping their reserves at Rs 25 crore, which is part of an agreement that the ministry wants them to sign. The directors, however, were lenient — despite the caveat of “subject to board’s approval” — in their response to the proposals of increasing the intake of students and introducing some new courses.

Joshi stuck to his stand on slashing fees, without quoting any final figure. He assured the directors of more grants to bridge the income-expenditure gap that the IIMs fear will widen with reduction in fees. Ministry sources have indicated that the government wants to peg the annual fees at Rs 20,000.

Contacted by The Telegraph, the directors declined to comment. “We don’t want to comment before the respective boards take up these issues.”

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