The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IIM makes peace overture

Ahmedabad, April 2: Hopes were raised today about a compromise between the country’s premier business schools and the government with the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad proposing settlement through dialogue, failing which it will consider legal option.

After a meeting of the society, under which IIMA is registered, .R. Narayana Murthy, chairman of the institute’s board of governors, said: “We’ll give a try to sorting out the problem amicably that satisfies everybody, including the (human resource development) minister (Murli Manohar Joshi).”

Joshi’s ministry has been pressing for a tuition fee cut from Rs 150,000 to Rs 30,000 a year, which some of the institutes have been resisting on the grounds that these will make them much too dependent on government financial help and, hence, vulnerable to meddling.

IIMA has been at the forefront of the opposition.

Murthy said the IIMA society had authorised the board to “initiate a process of dialogue and discussion with the ministry of HRD to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution”.

The board is meeting tomorrow.

Chaired by Murthy, the meeting also resolved that the chairman or his nominees could take appropriate legal recourse at any stage of the dialogue to protect the autonomy of IIMA, including its right to determine the tuition fee and other charges.

The resolution was clear that “a committee to be set up by the board will hold dialogue and, if it fails, the option of legal recourse is open”.

Asked if the ministry was ready for talks, Murthy commented: “I am saying it. Otherwise, I would not have said it.”

Murthy repeatedly spoke of attempting a solution to satisfy both sides, declining to dwell on the recent acrimony. “Let us not get into bickering. Let us not open old wounds.”

The society’s last meeting on March 26 had ended in chaos with the two ministry representatives reportedly threatening to dissolve the body and sack the IIMA director if they insisted on challenging the fee cut in court. Government representatives were conspicuous by their absence at today’s meeting.

“They were not there, we do not know why. We went ahead with our proceedings and the ministry will be informed about the outcome,” said Indira Parekh, acting chairperson of the society.

Some faculty members interpreted the absence as a positive sign. “They must have been taken into confidence. The resolutions seem to have been drafted diplomatically to satisfy concerns at both ends,” a faculty member said.

The first resolution related to dialogue and failing that legal recourse, while the second appeared intended to cool tempers in Delhi. It authorised the board to design a scholarship grant programme for economically disadvantaged students.

Now, IIMA offers need-based scholarships from a Rs 25-lakh fund, which may be “strengthened”, said institute director Bakul Dholakia.

“The fee revision issue is a complex one. There are various points of view — the view that IIMA should be accountable to the poor. At the same time, you need to charge market-driven fee to those who can afford it to ensure that the institute is strong. These are all laudable viewpoints. Hence, it is in the best of interest of all concerned to hold discussions,” Murthy said.

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