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Indian Institutes of Savarnas: Reservation Norms Violated during PhD admission and Faculty Recruitment in IIT/IIMs

Indian Institutes of Savarnas: Reservation Norms Violated during PhD admission and Faculty Recruitment in IIT/IIMs

pranav jeevan p

Pranav Jeevan P

India’s premier higher educational institutions for Engineering and Management, IITs and IIMs, have been violating the constitutionally mandated reservation norms for years. The violations are visible mostly in the PhD admissions and faculty recruitment where there is no centralized exam like JEE, GATE or CAT. The RTIs filed by Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study circle (APPSC) IIT Bombay shows that these institutions did not fill the seats meant for reserved category despite getting large number of qualified applications. 

Data submitted by Ministry of Education in Rajya Sabha showed that from 2015-2019, only 2.1% ST, 9.07% SC and 23.24% OBC students were admitted for PhD program, well below the mandatory 7.5%, 15% and 27% for ST, SC, and OBC respectively. The 22 IITs together denied 3773 students from SC (1483), ST (1350) and OBC (941) communities from getting their rightful seats. 547 students from SC, ST and OBC categories were similarly denied their seats in IISc between 2016-2020.

RTIs filed by APPSC IIT Bombay on the detailed PhD admission process between 2015-2019 showed that this exclusion is not due to lack of suitable applications, but it is structural exclusion. Not a single department in IIT Bombay fulfilled the reservation norms in their PhD admissions in these 5 years. Among the admitted students, only 1.6% were ST, 7.5% were SC and 19.2% were from OBC categories. IIT Bombay admitted only 3 persons from PwD category in these 5 years. 11 Departments did not admit a single ST student in 5 years despite having enough candidates who applied. Out of 1522 ST students who applied, only 47 were given admission in these 5 years despite 168 more seats being available to them. 606 seats were denied to SC, ST, OBC students despite having 28,256 applicants from these categories. Similarly, 18 departments of IIT Kharagpur did not admit a single ST student between 2018-2022 despite having 361 applicants.

Data submitted by Ministry of Education on PhD admission data of IIT Bombay for 2020 shows that 24% of the selected candidates were from EWS category (well over the 10% mandate) and 57% was from general category. There were more EWS students than SC, ST and OBC students combined (19%).

The RTIs by APPSC also contains PhD admission data of 15 IIMs from 2007-2022, which paints a much worse picture. Only 73 SC (1.3%), 22 ST (1.3%) and 183 OBC (10.8%) were admitted in the IIMs during the last 16 years. 564 seats which should have gone to SC (182), ST (106) and OBC (277) candidates were denied to them and filled with general category students. IIM Bangalore has not admitted even a single ST candidate for PhD in the last 16 years while IIM Tiruchirappalli and IIM Rohtak has not had a single ST PhD student since their inception.

2022 PhD admission data of 14 IIMs shows that despite having 1,080 applicants from SC, ST and OBC categories, 38 seats were denied to them. They comprised only 6.4%, 3% and 23.8% of the admitted students. In IIM Amritsar, even though they only advertised four seats for general candidates in 2022, they ended up recruiting 17 candidates from general category. At the same time, they had advertised 2 seats each for SC and OBC category, and one seat for ST category. Despite having 29 applicants, they only admitted 1 OBC and 1 SC candidate and did not admit a single ST student.

The major reason for IIT/IIMs not admitting students from reserved categories is due to the lack of faculty members who belong to these communities. RTIs from 2021-22 on the faculty composition of the top 5 IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kanpur, Kharagpur) show that 93.1% are from general category while SC, ST and OBC comprise a meagre 1.9%, 0.3% and 4.7% respectively. 7 IITs (Gandhinagar, Goa, Jodhpur, Indore, Palakkad, Patna, Bhilai) do not even have a single ST faculty member. There is only 3.1% SC, 0.6% ST and 8% OBC among the 5959 faculty members in the 22 IITs. Data submitted in Lok Sabha by Ministry of Education shows that are 4370 faculty positions remaining vacant in all the IITs as of 2022. If reservation norms had been implemented properly, all these vacancies would have been filled with SC, ST, OBC candidates.

From 2009-2020, 97% of the Assistant Professors recruited in IIT Bombay belonged to general category, and not a single ST candidate was recruited. No ST and OBC candidates were recruited as Associate Professor between 2007-2020. From 2016-2020, IIT Bombay received 383 applications from SC, ST and OBC category for Assistant Professor position but only 5 (2 SC, 3 OBC, 0 ST) were recruited.

According to data submitted in Parliament by Ministry of Education in 2019, there are only 2 ST (0.2%), 8 SC (1%) and 27 OBC (3.4%) faculty amoung the 784 posts in 18 IIMs leading to a complete monopolizing of these positions by upper castes (95%).

These institutions are in direct violation of the ‘The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation of Teachers Cadre) Act-2019′ which directs all Central Higher Educational Institutions (IIT/IIM/IIIT/NITs) to implement reservation in faculty recruitment. In 2021, government ordered [Ministry of Education Order (D.O. No. 33-2/2021-TS-III (Pt.I))] all IITs/IIMs to start a Mission Mode Recruitment (MMR) for filling the vacant seats of reserved faculties immediately and complete it within a year. But RTI data shows that despite clear orders from government, MMR is being undermined and very few candidates from SC, ST and OBC category are being posted as faculty despite these institutes receiving thousands of qualified applications.

In the RTIs filed by APPSC, only 10 IITs showed the number of posts they opened for intake through MMR. Despite having hundreds of vacancies, IIT Bombay and Madras only floated 77 and 44 posts respectively for MMR. MMR showed once and for all that there was no lack of qualified applicants from SC, ST and OBC backgrounds. RTI data shows that IITs received 27,246 applications from SC, ST, OBC candidates for faculty posts during MMR. Despite getting these massive amounts of qualified applications, they only selected 224 (71 SC, 27 ST, 126 OBC) which only fills only 5% of the vacant faculty posts in IITs. Even in MMR, 7 IITs (Delhi, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Hyderabad, Indore, Goa, Dharwad) did not appoint a single ST faculty member despite them receiving 975 applications from that category. IIT Delhi alone received 346 eligible applications from ST category and still did not appoint a single candidate.

Similarly, RTI data from 10 IIMs show that they received 2,073 applications, out of which 254 were shortlisted, but only 49 were finally recruited. 8 IIMs (Kozhikode, Bangalore, Amritsar, Nagpur, Jammu, Tiruchirappalli, Udaipur, Ranchi) did not select a single ST faculty member despite having 150 applicants. Many IIMs did not advertise the number of vacant seats which are being opened for MMR. Looking at the six IIMs which did advertise their vacancies, we see that they received 1,113 applications for 86 positions, but they only recruited 32. The RTI response by IIM Ahmedabad on the status of MMR was a complete denial of keeping record of the composition and implementation of reservation in faculty position. The MMR data shows that IIT/IIMs are reluctant in recruiting SC, ST, and OBC candidates in faculty positions.

Another important position in academia which is often ignored while thinking about reservation is the Post-Doctoral Fellowships (PDF) which are essential for getting a faculty position. Currently, none of the IITs implement reservation in PDF positions even though it is completely funded by the government. IIT Bombay alone has 391 Post-Doctoral Fellows working currently in the institute. IIT Bombay in RTI reply responded that they were not implementing reservation in PDF and they did not have any document or rule justifying why PDF was exempted from reservation.

The data clearly shows that there is a monopolization of academic positions from PhD to faculty level in these premier higher educational institutions by upper caste communities. Despite the high number of eligible applicants, SC, ST and OBC candidates are not let into these academic spaces. There is a clear caste bias that happens in the interviews where the candidates coming from these categories are pruned out.

The PhD admission and faculty recruitment process in IIT/IIMs lack transparency and are completely arbitrary (interview). They also do not publish the written and interview marks of candidates so that they can be scrutinized for potential bias. RTI data shows that large number of the PhD candidates from SC/ST/OBC categories are rejected in the interview stage rather than the written stage. There is only an interview process for faculty recruitment which makes it more arbitrary.  Recently, JNU started publishing the written and interview marks in PhD admission and it brought to light the caste bias and discrimination that happens in the interview process. SC/ST/OBC students who scored high marks in written test were awarded single digit marks in interview (out of 30) while general category students with similar written marks were awarded high marks in interview. The lack of transparency in these institutes are a way to hide their caste bias and blame everything on the lack of quality in candidates.

Despite the RTI data showing that IIT/IIMs are not implementing reservation norms, they are openly denying that they are violating any norms. In a response submitted to the Supreme Court on March 2022, IITs deny that they are violating reservation norms and openly lie in the affidavit that they follow reservation policy in PhD admissions. They go on to say that they are taking proactive steps in filling the SC/ST/OBC faculty positions and there is a lack of qualified candidates. In Point 27 of Ramgopal Rao Committee Report (for effective implementation of reservation in admission and recruitment in central educational institutes) submitted by IITs, they again mention that IITs are “in consonance with Reservation guidelines of Government” in admission to academic programs at all levels. They contradict themselves in Point 18 of the same report stating that “enrollment of reserved students in the PhD program is low”, just to make a case that they are not getting enough applications from SC/ST/OBC candidates as faculty. When the RTI data was first made public in 2020, IIT Bombay administration also responded saying that the institute followed all the reservation norms in letter and spirit.

The savarna faculties of IIT/IIMs will never concede that candidates from SC/ST/OBC communities can be meritorious like them. Unless there is more SC/ST/OBC faculty in these institutions, there will always be caste bias in the interview process against marginalized communities. They will keep singing the same song that there is a lack of candidates even if their own data shows otherwise.

The lack of intake of SC/ST/OBCs and violation of reservation should be considered as a willful effort by dominant upper castes to protect their monopoly in these academic spaces. Unless the savarna hegemony in these spaces is not dismantled, students from marginalized communities will be excluded and alienated. We need massive sustained agitation to make these campuses more transparent, diverse, democratic, inclusive, and representative of the actual composition of the country.


Pranav Jeevan P is currently a PhD candidate in Artificial Intelligence at IIT Bombay. He has earlier studied quantum computing in IIT Madras and Robotics at IIT Kanpur.