New Delhi, Oct. 2: When foreign minister Sushma Swaraj plugged the IITs as a symbol of India's success at the United Nations last month, she would have little expected to be asked to put her money where her mouth was.
The challenge has now come - not from Pakistan, whose "export factory for terror" she had contrasted disparagingly with India's premier tech schools, but from retired IIT professors.
Thanking Sushma for her praise of their institutes, these pensioners have sought her help in securing an increased dearness relief that they believe is their due. For, they "have contributed in no small measure to make (the) IITs what they are today, worthy of mention in an address to the world body".
Although the foreign ministry has officially no say in the matter, the retired teachers say they wrote to Sushma because the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry had ignored their pleas.
One of the letters to Sushma was written by A.L. Agrawal, general secretary of the Pan IIT Retired Faculty Association, who said: "I wrote several letters to the higher education secretary who has not replied."
A retired IIT Kanpur professor, S.K. Aithal, has written to the foreign minister independently with the same demand, forwarding copies of the "thank you email" to many of his former colleagues.
"All those who are associated with IITs are pleased, cheered and flattered by your complimentary reference to IITs in your recent speech at the UN. Thank you," Aithal wrote.
"May we request you to please take up the matter with your colleague Hon'ble (HRD) Minister Sri Prakash Javedkar and set the machinery in motion to get IIT pensioners the enhanced (dearness relief) payable to them?"
Agrawal said the regular IIT teachers received a dearness allowance that was 139 per cent of their basic salary while 2,000-odd retired professors were paid 125 per cent dearness relief, which has not been revised since January 2016.
Sources said that IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay paid their retired teachers a higher dearness relief - 132 and 136 per cent, respectively - and had been ticked off by the HRD ministry for doing so without "government permission". The retired professors want parity with serving IIT teachers.
An HRD ministry official said the finance ministry had not cleared either the enhanced dearness relief or the revised pensions as suggested by the 7th Pay Commission.
S.N. Majhi, a retired IIT Madras teacher, said the Centre was delaying the implementation of the revised pay for serving IIT teachers too.