Links to the RSS, Smriti Irani: New qualifications required for NIT head?

So now it looks as though to make the government hear you above the crowd, all you need to do is to claim association with the RSS -- and apparently Smriti Irani. After the government decided to look into a self-confessed Sangh sympathizer's demand that IITs should have vegetarian canteens, the HRD ministry headed by Smriti Irani has just appointed a man as the chairman of the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) Nagpur, reportedly because of his RSS background and some kind of personal association with her.

According to a report on The Indian Express,  days after Vishram Jamdar filed a job application with the HRD ministry claiming that he is a 'RSS person', he was declared the chairman of VNIT by the ministry. The report suggests that Jamdar's appointment might have been given special importance as the recruitment of chairmen to 12 other NITs were in pipeline and that his application was the one that was fast-tracked.

Also, the ministry, for the purpose of filling up the vacancy had already shorlisted four names and forwarded it to Irani, asking her to add her suggestions. Jamdar's name was not on that list. It was Irani who suggested the name and he was later confirmed as the chairman of the institute.

The report adds that Irani had also briefly stayed at his residence in Nagpur while she was campaigning for elections.

Vishram Jamdar. Image courtesy: VNIT website.

Vishram Jamdar. Image courtesy: VNIT website.

Jamdar is listed as the CEO of the Nagpur based Kinetic Gears, a manufacturing company established in 2001 with an annual turnover of Rs 50 lak to Rs 1 crore, as per its website.

The company manufactures heavy industrial equipment.  He is also listed as the former regional president of Laghu Udyog Bharati, a business network aimed at the welfare of MSMEs in India. His association with VNIT will not be Jamdar's first outing in academia either - he is listed as the President of Dharmapeth, a Nagpur-based science college.

The website of VNIT shows that Jamdar is an alumnus of the institution and had graduated from the college in 1972 with a degree in metallurgy.

The institute website notes: "His association with the Industry started way back in 1972 and had worked with more than 40 industries till now. To mention the few, he was directly associated with ISO Certified industries namely, M/s. kinetic Gears, M/s. Garuda Yantra Nirmitee Pvt. Ltd., M/s. Mahalasa Enterprises Pvt. Ltd., M/s. HTW Industries, M/s. KG Transmission etc.  The industrial exposure broadened the technical horizon which resulted in rolling out the cost effective industrial products."

The account of his education an experience suggests that Jamdar perhaps is a fitting contender of the post, just like the rest of the people nominated for the job. However, what is disturbing is the fact that Jamdar chose to cite his political affiliation - that ideally should have had nothing to do with leading an educational institution - as one of the reasons that he is perfect for the position. His clearly close affiliation with Irani, also hints at a strong possibility of favouritism.

The IE report says that Jamdar explained how despite being a staunch RSS believer, he was allowed to continue as a member of the governing body of the same university in the past when the Congress was in power. One should notice here, how cleverly Jamdar sneaked in the fact that he was a RSS follower while staking his claim to the position of chairman. Jamdar also admits to have met Irani several times too. He tells IE, "I met her a few times during any BJP meet."

If indeed Jamdar got the job because of his RSS connections it would mark yet another instance of the organisation seeking to interfere in the Indian education system. While the RSS has cried itself hoarse over the 'distortions' in school and college curriculum, which distances Indian students from knowledge of Hinduism, a report on Mint suggests that they might be working out a strategy to rectify that. A report published on 30 October states that several leaders from the education wing of the RSS met HRD minister Smriti Irani. A BJP leader quoted in the report said, "There is need for a better coordination between the government and the RSS and it was felt that regular meetings should be held so that representatives of the government are made aware of concerns of organizations affiliated to the RSS."

Another report published in July in Business Standard said, "Given Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani's lack of understanding of the Sangh Parivar's functioning, RSS is adopting a wait-and-watch policy. Irani, meanwhile, has managed to establish a good rapport with some senior RSS leaders, but a section of the organisation still has reservations about her credentials to occupy the important HRD portfolio."

But even if it isn't the cleverly sneaked in RSS affiliation that is in play here, there is still the matter of Smriti Irani's personal relationship with Jamdar.

Given PM Modi's careful efforts to wipe out nepotism and break possible family dynasties - often ensuring in many cases that members of the same family do not get tickets to contest, this move runs contrary to all of that. Will she end up being the weak link in Modi's plan to avoid a repeat of UPA style favouritism?

Read the complete Indian Express story here.

Updated Date: Nov 07, 2014 15:43 PM

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