What NDA's attack on IIM autonomy with draft bill reveals: Modi govt is adept at empty sloganeering

After Indian Institutes of Technology, it is the Indian Institutes of Management. With the heightening opposition to the draft IIM Bill, which is perceived to be a threat to their autonomy, you can't help but wonder what is it that the NDA has against these premier education institutions.

Remember, under NDA-1 too the IIMs had to grin and bear government interference in their functions when Murli Manohar Joshi, as human resource minister, sought to cut their fees drastically. The move was done under the pretext of reducing commercialisation of education. It was the UPA government that came to power in 2004, which undid these damages.

The NDA-2's draft IIM Bill, now available on www.mygov.in, seems to be bringing back the ghost of the NDA past for these institutions. Many have already expressed reservations that the proposed bill will reduce institutes to just "operational centres".

 What NDAs attack on IIM autonomy with draft bill reveals: Modi govt is adept at empty sloganeering

Representational image. Reuters

Let us look the contentious provisions in the draft that are attracting criticism:

a) Section 7 (i) says every institute shall have power "to determine, specify and receive payment of, fees with prior intimation to the Central Government and other charges as the Institute may deem fit, from students and any other person, institution or body corporate for instruction and other services, including training, consultancy and advisory services, provided by the Institute;

This means the institutes will have to go to the government to get permission to take any decision on fees. This is dangerous because fee in such premier institutions should not be a political decision.

b) Section 17 (2) says "The Director shall be appointed by the Central Government with the approval of the Visitor, on such terms and conditions of service as may be prescribed." Essentially, chairperson could just be a political appointment. Rama Bijapurkar, in an article in The Indian Express, rightly says, this section leaves "this critical appointment wide open to misuse or whimsy".

c) Section 21 (1) and (2) are as follows: 21.(1) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this Act, the Institute shall, for the efficient administration of this Act, be bound by such directions on questions of policy, as the Central Government may give in writing to it from time to time. (2) The decision of the Central Government whether a question is one of policy or not, shall be final.

These Sections would mean complete subjugation of the institutes to the government on policy matters.

d) Further more, the bill (Section 30 & 31) also seeks to set up a coordination forum for all the institutes, which will be dominated by ministers and bureaucrats. As per the draft, the minister in charge of technical education will be the ex-officio chairperson. The members will include 6 more ministers, 2 babus and chairpersons and directors of each institute. The slot for persons of eminence is just three, that too the forum will appoint them from the names suggested by the institutes.

On the whole, with about seven ministers as members, it will be easy for them to shove political decisions down the panel's throat.

e) Section 36 says the boards of the institutes will have to take permission from the government to make regulations on many functions of the institute, including the tenure, remuneration and terms and conditions of employees.

Clearly, the concerns raised by the business community are not baseless.

"The new bill gives sweeping powers to the government, which makes the institution only an operational centre while all the major directions and approvals are allowed only from the Centre," AM Naik, chairman of IIM-Ahmedabad, has been quoted as saying in a report in The Economic Times.

Interestingly, he has also said the draft Bill is completely different from what was agreed upon after the institute's discussions with government in October 2014. What is even more shocking is his perception that HRD minister Smriti Irani may not even seen the draft.

"It appears that the minister has not seen the Bill yet and the person who has prepared the draft seems to have no clue of its implications," he has been quoted as saying in a report in the DNA newspaper.

This is underwhelming for the NDA and most unbecoming of prime minister Narendra Modi, who has projected himself as man of business and free market. As Bijapurkar says in her column, this draft IIM Bill goes against the spirit of all the slogans he has raised thus far - from 'Make in India' to 'Minimum Government, Maximum Governance'.

If the government does not make amendments to this bill, Modi will become a man of sloganeering and not of business.

Updated Date: Jun 27, 2015 12:59:11 IST