'Excellence' through Expulsion: A case of Arbitrary Merit vs Constitutional Mandate

 

(Preliminary) Fact Finding Report on 

Expulsion of SC/ST/OBC students from IIT, Roorkee

30th July 2015 – 1st August 2015

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National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights

National Dalit Movement for Justice

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Fact Finding Team: Anoop Kumar, Dilip C. Mandal, Gurinder Azad, Nidhin Shobhana and Shefali Saini

Report Authored by: Nidhin Shobhana and Shefali Saini

iit merit

Background

On 15th June 2015, IIT Roorkee, the oldest engineering institute in Asia, released an official memorandum expelling 73 First Year students from BTech/IMT/MSc. This notice was released during the summer vacation when students are generally not on campus. None of the expelled students were officially informed about their expulsion through e-mail or speed post. They were informed mostly by their seniors. The immediate reason for this mass expulsion as explained by the official memorandum and later by IIT (Roorkee) in Uttarakhand High Court stems from rule 33 (1) (a) of the UG Ordinance and Regulations 2014-15. The rule states that -

 'The enrolment of a student in a programme, shall stand terminated if he/she fails to earn the minimum number of credits specified at different yearly levels in the programme as given in Appendix -J and fails to secure minimum CGPA of 5.00, notwithstanding the fact that the student has or has not been put under academic probation [...]'

The rule of 'minimum 5.00 C.G.P.A' to continue one's course in IIT (Roorkee) was introduced only after the 56th Senate meeting held on 10th July 2014. (The Senate is the highest decision making body in matters of academics. The Senate members include all faculty members designated as 'Professors'. The Director is the Chairperson of the Senate. One needs to point out that this rule was not updated in the official website of IIT (Roorkee) at the time of the fact finding). The preceding rule replaced the earlier rule of an average of 'minimum 4 C.G.P.A'. Students pointed out that the new rule book was distributed only in the third month of their course work, without any meaningful orientation.

Several media reports1 pointed out that 90.4% of the expelled students belonged to reserved categories. The breakup of the expelled students as per their category is as follows: 

expelled students table

 As per the JEE Advanced Report, 994 students were admitted in the year 2014-15. Out of which 158 students belonged to SC category while 78 belonged to ST category. Thus, the institutional decision to expel 54 SC/ST students meant a decrease of 15% and 42% in the total numbers of SC and ST students respectively. Similarly, this decision meant a decrease of more than 50% in the total number of PD students (4 out of 7).

Litigation and Judgements

To challenge the institutional decision, students approached the Uttarakhand High Court with individual writ petitions. 38 writ petitions were filed in the High Court. The writ petitions broadly challenged the interpretation of specific rules and regulations2 in the UG Ordinance and Regulations 2014. No arguments were made to highlight the social composition of the expelled students. The first judgment on the writ petitions by Honourable Judge Sudhanshu Dhulia, dated 15th July 2015, permitted students with backlogs to appear for re-examinations. However, the judgment added that a decision on the re-registration of the students would be made only after the institute explains its stand in a counter affidavit.

The next judgment pronounced on 22nd July 2015 by Honourable Judge Alok Singh upheld the institute's 'autonomy' in implementing 'prescribed standards' which are supposedly aimed at ensuring 'excellence'. The interpretation of the rules by IIT was held as paramount and final. Thus, the court categorically rejected the plea of the students. It upheld the institutional decision of expulsion. It is appalling to note that nowhere in the judgment is there any mention on the social composition of the students. However, the Alok Singh judgment points out that the petitioners did not themselves 'question' the 'validity' of such rules. Thus, the court took a role of 'non-interference'. In the judgment, one is taken by surprise to note that the High Court of Uttarakhand does not see any precedence in the Avinash Singh Bagri & Ors vs Registrar IIT Delhi Judgment uttered by K.G. Balakrishnan, P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan on August 12, 2009.The judgment clearly states that:

[...] Article 46 of the Constitution of India enjoins upon the State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. These socially and economically backward categories are to be taken care of at every stage even in the specialized institutions like IITs. They must take all endeavors by providing additional coaching and bring them up at par with general category students.

However, the scope of Article 46 was neither invoked nor expanded in the Alok Singh Judgment. The next judgment on the special appeals came on 28th July 2015. In this judgment, again, the High Court dealt only with the technicalities of interpreting the rule book. Quoting precedence, Hon'ble K.M. Joseph C.J. and Hon'ble V.K. Bist explained how one should understand the use of 'and' and 'or' in the rule book.

Students time and again approached the administration with mercy pleas and requests. They organized peaceful rallies and meetings to articulate their grievances. However, the administration persistently rationalized its decision in the name of 'Brand IIT'.

How do we understand these expulsions?

This mass 'exodus' of students from historically excluded backgrounds in IIT (Roorkee) is not an isolated incident. IITs and other educational institutions of National importance, have time and again manufactured such incidents. These range from drop outs, expulsions to psychological disorders and suicides. In Anoop Kumar's report titled ' The Death of Merit' (based on the 2009 expulsion of 12 SC/ST students in IIT- Delhi), he points out that on an average SC/ST communities loose out nearly 62% of the total allotted IIT seats every year, due to several reasons such as unfilled seats at the time of admissions, drop outs, expulsions etc. He further observes that the 'magnitude of such loss' should be contextualized in the 'inhuman exclusion of Dalits and Adivasis in very sphere of life'. One cannot forget the suicide of 20 year old Manish Kumar Guddolian, a second year SC student in Department of Computer Science & Information Technology, at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee. He committed 'suicide' after jumping off from 5th floor of his hostel on 6th February, 2011. He was intensely troubled by the caste-abuses by his classmates, hostel warden and administration. Dalit suicides in All India Institute of Medical Sciences led to the formation of a special committee headed by former UGC Chairman Dr. Sukhadeo Thorat, to frame guidelines for inclusive, equitable and non-discriminating campuses.

Thus, one needs to bear in mind the systemic resentment against SC, ST and OBC students in spaces of higher education.

Fact Finding Team's Visit

Through various newspaper reports, it came to our notice that 73 students were expelled from IIT (Roorkee) after the completion of their first year in different undergraduate programmes. It also came to our notice that 90% of the expelled students come from SC/ST and OBC backgrounds.

To delve into the facts relating to these expulsions a team was constituted by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Delhi who visited IIT, Roorkee for 3 days from 30th July - 1st August 2015. The team consisted of Anoop Kumar (Independent Researcher and Educationist), Dilip Mandal (Former Managing Editor, India Today), Gurinder Azad (Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion), Nidhin Donald (National Dalit Movement for Justice - NCDHR) and Shefali (Delhi Forum). The team met with the students who have been expelled, students in the senior batch and the administration.

The objectives of the FF visit were as follows

a) Documenting the facts pertaining to the expulsion of 73 students (which include more than 60 students from marginalized sections). Such an exercise would include recording institutional explanations and testimonies of affected students.

b) Reviewing the presence or absence of support infrastructure for SC/ST/OBC students by recording the experiences of students and the institution. We would also review the participation of students and student's bodies in the decision making processes.

c) Understanding whether SC/ST/OBC students face any discrimination, inside and outside the classroom/hostels and administration.

d) Recording the institutional commitment to affirmative action and steps taken by the institution to actualize these commitments.

As civil society organizations play a very important role in the upkeep of constitutional promises and democracy, such a fact finding is important in the larger interest of marginalized sections of the society.

Interaction with the Affected Students

On 30th July 2015, the FFT visited IIT, Roorkee. However, we could not enter the college campus as we did not have a 'credible' reference. The expelled students who had come to receive us could not provide their ID Cards due to their expulsion and genuine fears of administrative backlash. Thus we thought it would be appropriate to hold our meetings and discussions outside the campus.

Soon after, in a private hotel room, near the campus, we met nearly 40 expelled students (including three girl students) from SC/ST and OBC backgrounds. To set the context, Anoop Kumar, one of the FFT members, explained the aims and objectives of the FFT. He also spoke about prior instances of expulsions in IIT campuses across the country. He quoted the example of SC/ST expulsions in IIT (Delhi) in the year 2009. He shared the experience of expelled SC/ST students from IIT (Delhi).

The quiet gathering swiftly turned conversant as they could closely relate to the context set by Anoop. They pointed out several factors which affect them on the campus. They questioned the '5 C.G.P.A ' rule which led to their expulsion. They spoke effectually about experiences of caste-based discrimination on campus. They highlighted the lack of institutional mechanisms to address their problems which emerge from their socio-economic backgrounds. They described how English becomes a major hurdle in classrooms. They questioned the teaching methods of the faculty, who, according to them, fail to cater to their needs.

In the following sections we will go through each of these factors in some detail. While the sections below compile insights from the group discussion, two separate highlighted sections discuss the social backgrounds of the students and the institutional problems they identified in their individual interviews and biographical accounts. The second boxed section is a case study of Pramod (name changed), one of the expelled students.

Rules which manufacture failure

Most of the students highlighted that they were not oriented about the changed rule at the time of their admission. In fact, the orientation programme did not provide any rationale or explanation on the course work, distribution of credits or the system of relative marking. Students pointed out that they enter IITs on the basis of different merit lists. In other words, students belonging to reserved categories are admitted on the basis of separate merit lists and cut offs. However, IIT operates on a system of relative marking. In this system, individual students are marked on the basis of the performance of the entire class. For example, if the class on an average scores 75/100, 75 is held as 6.5 C.G.P.A. Students scoring less than 75 are assigned grade points as per their relative distance from the average marks of the class.

Students explain that such a system is rationalized in the name of 'healthy competition'. They point out that in such a system individual progress is outweighed by collective scores.

Most of the expelled students had completed the required number of credits stipulated by the Institute and passed in all the courses. Yet they were expelled. This exposed a very curious situation. One of the students explained this situation. He pointed out that the minimum grade point required to pass in an exam is 4 C.G.P.A. By this criterion most of the expelled students had cleared all their courses. However, the Institute imposed the additional criterion of an average of minimum 5 C.G.P.A. to re-register in the next academic year. Thus, even after passing in all the courses students (22 students in all) were expelled. One of them highlighted that students with several backlogs were allowed to re-register as they fulfilled the additional criterion of 5 C.G.P.A. He wishfully added that if he would have failed even in a single subject, he would have been eligible for re-registration. He said, "Pass hona ek gunah hain!" (To pass all subjects is a crime!).

If a student fails in a subject, s/he can appear for a re-examination in the next semester. Students are supposed to pay Rs. 1000/ subject for re-examinations. However, students point out that irrespective of how well they performin the re-examination, they can score only the minimum grade point (i.e. 4 C.G.P.A.) as per the rules of IIT (Roorkee). Students added that IIT does not provide any opportunity to improve one's scores. Instead of providing incentives to improve one's scores, IIT punishes them by maintaining their grade points in the border line.

A Note on the Social Backgrounds of Expelled Students

As an exercise, we asked the students to prepare their biographical sketches (26 in all). It was a simple and useful tool to understand the family composition, educational backgrounds and experiences of students. Majority of the students in conversations and their biographical accounts mentioned that they were first generation learners in Higher Education. A significant number came from Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan agrarian families, with parents who are either illiterate or have hardly completed their schooling. A whooping majority came from Hindi medium schools, thus they found IIT classroom instructions highly incomprehensible. While many students reached IIT by devoted self-study, others took loans to attend coaching classes and clear the entrance test. Often students and their parents were ready to bear the cost of the loan amount (in many cases as high as Rs. 5, 00,000/-) with the hope that they would repay their loans once they earn a job. However, as one of the students opined in his biographical account, 'IIT is not interested in our hopes!'

English: A Major Hurdle

In the group discussion, students unanimously pointed out that lack of proficiency in English is one of the biggest hurdles faced by them. Among the students, a significant number completed their schooling in vernacular medium government schools. While there were students from English or semi-English mediums, almost all of them came from Non-English milieus. In other words, they socialized and conversed in regional languages all their lives. They even cleared their JEE entrance tests in Hindi language.

In such a situation, students point out, that 'fast' lectures in English is highly incomprehensible. In their initial days at IIT, an English proficiency test was conducted for them. The test consisted of English grammar, sentence and paragraph comprehension. The test did not 'test' them on any English which is relevant to their everyday coursework. After the test, students were grouped as 'basic' and 'advanced'. All the 73 expelled students belonged to the basic group. They were subsequently given a few highly insufficient workshops on English proficiency. English relevant to their coursework was not a part of any of these classes. The campus does not have an English Language Lab.

Disengaging and Discriminating Pedagogies

Students effectively pointed out that teachers do not cater to their needs in the classroom. For example, most students come from educational backgrounds where science and mathematics were taught on blackboards and not with projectors using slides. Many students pointed out that the use of projectors has severely hampered their abilities to understand concepts.

Students pointed out that the use of microphone by teachers to address the big classroom was a very new experience for them. It took them a while to understand their new situations. According to them, senior professors often spoke over the microphone, uninterrupted, moving from one slide to the other. This often left them in a state of perpetual confusion in the classroom.

While talking about the coursework, a few students highlighted experiences of discrimination within the classroom. There have been instances when students who approached teachers with their doubts were asked their 'category' or JEE Ranks. In fact, one of the students recollected his experience with an upper-caste senior. When he approached this senior with a doubt he remarked that 'being an ST he would not understand the concept'. Students also recollected experiences of discriminations in the laboratories. One of them specifically pointed out his experience of attending C++ practical sessions. This student did not have any know-how about computers as he came from socio-economic circumstances where computers were inconceivable. In the first semester, without any background support, students like him were expected to do complicated programming assignments in the computer lab. Quite naturally, such situations would transfix a student into perpetual confusions in the lab. The teacher was so overwhelmed by his confusions that he ultimately remarked 'why do people like you even come to IITs?' After the expulsions students met various authorities with their mercy plea. They also approached a senior faculty in civil engineering department in search of support. However, this senior faculty after enquiring about the categories of the students retorted that it was a good decision to get rid of 'category' students.

Support mechanisms: A story of false promises

Students spoke in detail about the lack of any support mechanisms to address any of their requirements. While the institute officially maintains a narrative of numerous support mechanisms, in actual experience none of the mechanisms are operational. Students underscored that (a) There are no bridge courses in English which are relevant to their coursework (b) When the institute realizes that students are scoring low grade points, they issue a public notice with the name of such students, declaring that they are on academic probation. When we tried to gather from students the meaning of an academic probation, students themselves were unable to explain. Ideally in an academic probation students are expected to receive special coaching classes and mentorship. However, none of these mechanisms were meaningfully provided. The special coaching classes were non-existent and the mentorship notices were put up in the tail end of the semester. One of the students pointed out that academic probation is nothing but a 'warning'. The administration shames the students by putting up their names in notice boards and thereby builds tremendous pressure on individual students to score better. (c) The SC/ST Cell which should provide key support is almost dysfunctional. In fact very few students knew about the existence and mandate of such a Cell. (d) The problems faced by differently abled students also became a focal point in the discussion. Differently-abled students described their experiences. They highlighted that the campus is not disabled-friendly.

The Story of a Topper

 Pradeep Kumar Meena Civil Engineering student was expelled on 15th June 2015 along with other 72 students. He was the topper in ST-PD category in the IIT entrance exam 2014. He belongs to the ST category and is a 'person with disability'. Coming from an extremely humble background, Pradeep made it to IIT (Roorkee) by sheer hard work and determination. His parents are non-literate, making him a first generation learner. The family had to incur a heavy loan to finance his coaching (Rs. 1, 50,000), with the hope that an IIT education would change their lives. 

 In IIT-Roorkee he had to face discrimination at multiple levels. Since his basic education was in Hindi, Pradeep found it really difficult to cope up with the course work and classroom teaching. Due to lack of any meaningful support mechanisms such as special coaching classes, English remedial classes, mentorship Pradeep found himself in the midst of many hurdles. However, the biggest challenges emerged in the practical sessions. Though he is medically incapable of standing for more than 10 minutes, in the practical sessions he was forced to stand continuously for two to three hours. Though he informed the concerned faculty about his problem, no action was taken. In fact the faculty categorically told him that nothing can be done!

This episode deeply demoralized him. It also had an irreparable impact on his scores. The practicals constitute of 8 credits. He scored dismally low in these practicals, making this ST-PD topper a very 'weak' student. While all 73 students were re-admitted on 3rd August 2015, Pradeep and six others were expelled again the very next day on grounds of low scores.

Interview with the Administration at IIT Roorkee

The FFT tried to contact various officials at IIT to document their responses on the expulsions. But most officials denied us an appointment, except the Registrar. The office bearers kept referring us to one senior official or the other on the grounds of not being ‚authorized‛ to talk on the matter. Very little telephonic conversations with the officials took place.

The Deputy Registrar, Raman Lal asked us to contact the Dean (Academics) and the Faculty Advisor to SC/ST students. He added that we may also contact the Deputy Director because the Director was out of station during our visit.

The Deputy Director, Professor Vinod Kumar said that owing to a tight schedule he could not provide us an appointment. On being asked to comment on the matter of expulsions he said that newspapers have already captured the episode and the High Court has pronounced its judgment. He further added that after admissions, there is no differentiation among students in academic activities. Irrespective of whichever category a student belongs to, the students attend the same classes and are given equal treatment. He also asserted that in his knowledge the students did not belong to Hindi medium background.

The Faculty Advisor to SC/ST students, Mr. M.K. Baruah agreed to meet with the FF initially and even gave an appointment.. However, he soon lost confidence and added that the FFT must first meet up with the Dean (Student Welfare) and only after that he would be able to meet us as he is not "authorized" to comment on the matter. He said that the issue was not of SC/ST students alone as even non – reserved category students had been expelled. He said that he was neither a Senate member nor a Professor and was not part of the decision. He, in fact, got to know about it from the newspaper. After the students came to meet him he helped them write a mercy plea to the Director. He further asked us to contact the Dean (Academics), Mr. Pramod Aggarwal.

When we called up the Dean (Academics) Mr. Pramod Aggarwal he asked us to talk to the Registrar as he was the only one "authorized" to talk to journalists. We tried to get in touch with the Dean (Student welfare) but did not succeed and had almost lost hope of getting any appointments with the administration officials when we made one last call to the Registrar, Mr. Prashant Garg. He agreed to meet us for ten minutes after he had already tried to refer us back to the Dean (Academics) and also asserted that the issue was a "students" issue and not a "SC/ST students" issue.

'It is only after a Flood that we take precautions!' - Conversation with the Registrar

The FFT met the Registrar, Mr. Prashant Garg at the Registrar office. The Registrar said that the expulsion of 73 students happened due to carelessness and lax attitude of the students. He said that IIT does not differentiate among its students after the admission and considers everyone as "equal" in the classroom. He further added that category students enter IITs using "relaxed" cut offs. After coming to IIT they often cannot withstand the competition with the non- category students. He said that in past years, therehave been around 20-25 cases in which students who reached the end of 4 years they did not have the required CGPA for placements or to obtain a degree. According to him, those students themselves argued that it would have been better if they had been expelled in the beginning itself rather than after 4 years. In response to this, the current rule of minimum 5 CGPA was introduced to make sure that the "weak" students are removed in the initial years of the degree itself. The Registrar stressed that the "brand" of IIT was degrading day by day due to which the IITiansare finding it increasingly difficult to find a "high paying job". He expressed his concern regarding how in coming years the IITians will find it difficult to find even a 5000 rupees job to do. He said that the standard needs to be maintained and hence the administration is getting stricter owing to which the present steps are being taken. When the FFT asked about the disproportionately less number of faculties from SC/ST background in IIT, he said that a standard has to be maintained while hiring the faculty as well. On the issue of infrastructure and help for the differently abled students, the Registrar said that if students are academically weak then they are put on academic probation. The course advisor finds out the weak area and gives counseling to the student.

When asked whether the Institute and its faculty should be held responsible for such mass expulsions and 'underperformance', the Registrar answered that the Institute is introspecting and will take necessary steps. He explained the current expulsions using the analogy of a flood. He highlighted that is only after a flood (read mass expulsion) that we take precautions.

Interaction with the Senior Students

The team interacted with some students of senior batches as well. They gave a very sharp critique of the present CGPA Rule. They explained that given that there is relative marking hence there would always be a few students who would fall in the category of below 5 CGPA every year, irrespective of how hard they work. Every year the lowest ranking students would be kicked out of the institution.They clearly presented how the present rule is mathematically flawed. They argued that such a rule would progressively eliminate most of the SC, ST, PD and OBC students over the years.

The students also told us how they were not prey to this rule and there were many cases where if the student was not able to achieve 5 CGPA then he/she could take a year or two extra, depending upon his degree and achieve the required CGPA. This proves beyond doubt that the number of people who actually got degree by the end of the stipulated course period were more as the current rule was non-existent for them.

The students also told us about some other policies/rules of college which might prove to be huge financial burden on the students. One such rule states that in case a student is not able to clear a backlog in a certain subject within two years then the student has to pay Rs.45,000 per subject to apply for that paper again. This means that if the student has by some chance 2 papers left to clear then she will have to pay a humungous amount of 90,000 to apply for a re-examination. Again such a re-examination will only promise the student minimum grade points.

Eliminating the Public life of Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan students

Another set of rules which operate in IIT has serious implications on SC, ST and OBC students. In the students' affair council, the official student body of IIT-Roorkee, only those students with high grade points can contest elections. For example, to contest for the highest post (i.e. the President) the candidate should have a minimum of 8.5 C.G.P.A. Similarly, only students with more than 6.5 C.G.P.A can head college festivals and other events. Students scoring less than that can always work 'under' the heads. The class representatives are the top scorers in every class. If a student wishes to stay back in the hostel for a project work, he/she would be eligible only if they have a C.G.P.A of 7.5.

The seniors argued that such rules are not only discriminatory but also eliminate any possibilities for most of the SC, ST, PD and OBC students to develop their full personality and participate actively in the public life of the Institute.

Observations of the FFT

A. Lack of Institutional Support and Infrastructure for Students from Diverse Backgrounds:

• There is a lack of proper orientation to the category students at beginning of the semester.

• The necessary support to students like English language classes, summer coaching classes, slow tracking programme announced by the administration at the time of the orientation were not fulfilled.

• The evaluation period of one year is too less for them to be able to match up to the grades which are easily achievable by most non- category students. Many quoted examples of students who scored 4.8 CGPA in the first year but could improve their scores by the time they reached in the final years of the programme.

• The remedial classes were never provided. However, the documents submitted by IIT in the Honourable High Court stated that students were notified but none attended the remedial classes. (Confirm)

• Students' access to the institutional bodies meant for grievance redressal is close to nil and mostly these bodies are dysfunctional or powerless and express insensitivity to students concerns.

• Even when the teacher understands that the student needs help, they ask the students to take help from their seniors or classmates. Any form of institutional support is absent.

B. Undemocratic Ways of Decision Making and Lack of Student Representation:

• The college was trying to implement the present grading system since past 3 years and only this year it has succeeded (Senate minutes, 2014). The students were not properly notified about the grading rules getting implemented in this year and much confusion and lack of awareness regarding the same was expressed. They did not upload the changed rules in the website.

• When parents approached the authorities on the rules and regulations of CGPA, they were asked to visit the official website. However, the website doesn't include the latest rules and regulations till the date on which fact finding has been conducted.

C. Nature of "Premiere" institutions such as IITs and the inherent Discrimination:

• The 5 CGPA rule employed here is in fact a step undertaken to 'undo' the affirmative impact of the reservation policy. The resistance of such "premiere" institutes towards reservations is clear where the institution tries to sell its image of being "par excellence", so much so that it remains accommodative towards only the toughest and the most competitive and inevitably the ‚most privileged‛.

• Many of the students who have been expelled have cleared all the papers as per the passing CGPA of 4 points. On the other hand, students who have failed in a few subjects but could maintain an average of above or marginally above 5 have been retained.

• Most of the Professors in IIT (Roorkee) had no clue that IIT entrance exams are also conducted in Hindi.

• Castiest comments made by one Mr.J.K. Ghosh (Civil Department) were clearly recollected by the students. He said, "I am extremely happy that category students are being kicked out, Category students are incapable of understanding anything"

• The rules are really arbitrary and discriminatory, for example, the class topper will be by default the class representative. Students do not have any representation in any decision making bodies.

• The students said that most of the teachers are not supportive and those very few who do support are not doing much to help the students.

Present Situation at IIT

A Senate meeting was held at IIT on 3rd of August 2015 in which it was decided that all the students who had been expelled in July are being granted one more chance to continue education at the institute provided that the students fulfill the following difficult conditions (a) a minimum attendance of 75% in every subject (b) No backlogs in semesters or at the end of Ist year (c) A minimum C.G.P.A. of 5 points (d) A year long academic probation (e) Clear all subjects once again. With these conditions, students would continue at IIT (Roorkee) under constant psychological pressure and fear.

The students were relieved to know that they were at least not going to get expelled.

However, the following day when the students went to take readmission a few of them were refused re-registration. It turned out later that 7 of the students (6 of them belong to SC/ST/OBC and Minority categories) had been expelled even after the previous days' notice and were not informed about same. This is an act of extreme malevolence by the administration and reflects the authoritative nature of IIT (Roorkee). It is yet another example of arbitrary decisions taken overnight without any concern for the social and psychological cost it may incur. The Director has denied meeting the expelled students. It should be noted that the Director has not met the affected students even once.

Conclusion

The fact finding team was startled by the scale of caste-based discrimination, often camouflaged in the language of grade points. While the primary mandate of the Fact Finding team was to collect and analyze the facts pertaining to the recent mass expulsion, several other related issues came our way. The Institute has persistently tried to build rules (including the regulation which led to the expulsion) which are antithetical to the constitutional commitment to affirmative action for socially, culturally, economically excluded groups. Though the Institute has offered another chance to most of the expelled students, it has not repealed the regulation. Thus, one can expect mass expulsions almost every year. This systematic expulsion is orchestrated in context where IITs have time and again failed to understand the questions of the new student.

There is a need to dismantle the exclusionary value systems which govern the rules and regulations of IITs. In other words, we need to debrahmanize IITs, and re-mould them in a way which is relevant to excluded groups. IITs were formed on the basis of IIT Act, 1961. The act puts forth the aims and objectives of IITs. These institutes were supposed to produce knowledges relevant to the nation and become excellent centers of learning. Whether IITs have achieved such progress for the country is a separate investigation. However, one can surely cast a shadow on the 'excellence' of IITs, looking at their murky ranks among the top universities in the world. More importantly, the total disregard for diversity on campus by manufacturing such mass expulsions is an example of how IITs have a limited understanding of quality and excellence. Diversity brings with it new questions. Without new questions there would be no innovations. The top most universities in the world nurture this diversity and thereby excellence by promoting racial minorities and historically excluded sections of the society. They run special programmes and develop creative mechanisms to solve the problems of new students. However, our country and its premiere institutions derive 'excellence through expulsions'.

Recommendations

The FFT recommends the following to ensure that the rights of the students are safeguarded:

• The expulsion of students is Anti – Constitutional on all grounds and any rule that attempts to declare any student a ‚failure‛ at the end of first year itself should not be applied anywhere in any university or college campus. This implies that not only should the minimum 5 CGPA rule be removed but also that all 73 students should be re admitted to the institution. There should in fact be no expulsions on account of underperformance.

• Public auditing of funds received under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and Scheduled Tribe Sub Plan (STSP) should take place and the institution should show how this amount is being spent on students for students welfare3.

• Taking into consideration that the students are from varying socio-economic background the students the institution should produce a proper plan in which the issues of students from SC/ST/PD backgrounds will be dealt with. Need based special language empowerment course should be initiated everywhere.

• For underperformance of the students, teachers should also be held accountable.

• The students from SC/ST/OBC backgrounds should get representation in decision making bodies and a Student Union should be formulated within the campus.

• The institution should have a SC/ST/OBC/Minority student's cell which would provide a reliable platform for the students to express and redress their grievances and issues.

• The campus should have Statues of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Jotiba Phule and other anti-caste intellectuals in prime locations. These spaces should be set free and students should be allowed to sit in groups and discuss and deliberate on issues which they deem relevant.

• There should be compulsory refresher courses for faculty orienting them on the issues of SC, ST, OBC and PD students.

• There should not be a monetary punishment for non-clearance of examination. The institution should not be allowed to charge a fee as high as 45,000 in any case whatsoever. For re-examination the college should calculate and charge an appropriate 'affordable' amount.

~

Notes

[1]. See : http://www.jantakareporter.com/india/90-4-of-iit-roorkees-expelled-students-were-from-reserved-category-decisionunfair-for-all/6527 ; Also see reports in the online portal 'Youth ki Awaaz'.

[2]. The Regulations include Sections 2, 18, 33, 34 of the UG Ordinance and Regulations 2014-15.

[3]. As per the budgetary allocations for the year 2015-16, IITs are allocated nearly 450 crores from SCSP and STSP.

~~~

 

Illustration by Nidhin Shobhana.

 

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