Minister in IIT with candidate
Human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal visited IIT Delhi on Monday for a meeting with the tech school’s employees’ union, taking along with him a party candidate for the upcoming elections in the capital and triggering allegations of “blatant misuse” of the campus.
Shailendra Singh, the BJP candidate for the Malviya Nagar seat, was present throughout the hour-long meeting with the non-teaching employees at the institute’s seminar hall.
IIT Delhi is part of Malviya Nagar constituency where Singh is locked in a tussle with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party’s Somnath Bharti, an alumnus of the tech school.
Several teachers, past and present, said the BJP was trying to misuse the union for electoral gain and accused Pokhriyal of spreading politics in the IITs that have largely remained apolitical.
Prof. Ramgopal Rao, the IIT’s director, did not attend the meeting. Rao told The Telegraph he was busy with a faculty selection meeting and said he was not aware that any BJP candidate had accompanied the minister.
The non-teaching employees had four demands, including payment of bonus that has stopped for the last two years, increase in their retirement age from 60 to 65 and a provision of traditional pension in place of contributory pension.
Under the traditional system in force till 2004, employees drew almost half their salary after retirement and did not have to contribute to any pension fund. But those who joined government service after 2004 have to contribute a part of their salary to be eligible for pension.
Hemant Gaur, president of the employees’ union, said the meeting was fruitful but did not disclose details.
A former member of the IIT faculty said Pokhriyal had misused his position. “This is unprecedented that the HRD minister who is the chairperson of the IIT Council would visit an IIT with a party candidate for a meeting related to issues of employees. This is wrong. This is misuse of official position on the part of the minister,” the retired teacher said.
A senior faculty member said IITs have remained away from politics, one of the reasons for their high standard. “This is use of the campus for political gain. The government says higher education institutions like the IITs and central universities are autonomous institutions. The government should respect their autonomy,” the faculty member said.
Earlier on Monday, before Pokhriyal visited the IIT, the minister had faced questions in the Lok Sabha about the safety and security of students in higher education institutions in the backdrop of attacks on them.
Masked thugs had barged into the JNU campus on January 5 and assaulted students, leaving several injured.
Pokhriyal said the institutions were “competent by their statutes” to provide security. “There have been reports of some violence in some universities in the country. (The) ministry of human resource development was apprised of the factual position by the concerned central universities. All the central universities are competent by their statutes to ensure proper safety and unhindered progress of the students,” he said.