| Deveshwar: Which way'
Calcutta, March 26: A stormy board meeting of IIM Calcutta ended inconclusively today, handing the authority to prepare a response to the government move to drastically slash tuition fee to the chairman, Y.C. Deveshwar.
After some brisk eleventh-hour activity by Murli Manohar Joshi’s ministry to pack the board with handpicked men, the governing body of IIMC met in the backdrop of sharp differences with Delhi on the fee cut.
Deveshwar, who is also the chairman of ITC Ltd, said after the meeting: “I will draft a resolution by taking into consideration the interests of all the stakeholders.”
The decision to vest the chairman with the task of preparing the resolution was taken to avoid the differences within the board from degenerating into a divisive voting. Usually, resolutions are passed unanimously.
V.S. Pandey, the joint secretary representing the ministry, bulldozed his way out after the three-and-a-half-hour meeting, refusing to answer questions.
The faculty, which had feared that the board would clear the fee cut, was happy with the outcome and optimistic that the chairman would keep their views in sight.
In that sense, today’s development is a minor victory for the camp opposed to the fee cut because had it come to a vote, the proposal would have sailed through. Appointed by the ministry, the majority of the board members were expected to toe Joshi’s line.
The ministry’s proposal is seen by the IIMs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta as a ploy to weaken their financial strength, making them dependent on government munificence and vulnerable to interference.
Of the 24 items on the agenda of today’s meeting, three were contentious: the fee cut, a paper prepared by the faculty on the proposal and the question of signing a memorandum of understanding with the human resource development ministry.
On the eve of the meeting, Joshi appointed some members to the board, such as V.K. Pipersania, the financial adviser to his ministry.
Replacements were despatched for some other members. P.D. Chitlangia, a businessman known for his proximity to the BJP, was one replacement, as was S.K. Dubey, who was made director of IIT Kharagpur in Joshi’s tenure.
Some of the replacements are also expected to attend tomorrow’s IIM Bangalore board meeting. Its Ahmedabad counterpart will gather on April 3.
Although the 26-member IIMC board is overwhelmingly loaded in favour of the ministry, some corporate representatives put up a strong case against the fee cut.
The IIMC board has Rajive Kaul (Nicco), S.B. Ganguly (Exide), and Aditya Kashyap (Mobar) from industry.
Other than the IIMC director, Shekhar Choudhury, two faculty members are also on the board. They narrated the reasons for the faculty’s opposition to the fee cut with support from a colleague who was called in to make a presentation.
Dubey put forward the counter-argument, explaining how the IITs charge Rs 24,000 a year as fee — as against Rs 1.5 lakh at the IIMs — but have not faced any interference from the ministry.
Members backing Joshi’s stand also cited the fact that the IIMs in Lucknow and Indore had accepted the fee cut to Rs 30,000 a year. The Kozhikode board took a similar decision today.
Deveshwar said he would not wait for the two other IIMs to decide and would draft the resolution as quickly as possible. The fee cut and its perceived link with the question of autonomy are also before the Supreme Court.
Unlike .R. Narayana Murthy, the Infosys chief who heads the IIMA board, Deveshwar has not expressed his opinion on the fee cut. Narayana Murthy had gone public with his opposition.
Asked why, Deveshwar said: “I am not Narayana Murthy. Look at his stature.”
The future of IIMC is now in Deveshwar’s hands. So far, he has not given any indication which way he will tilt.