IIT-Kharagpur faculty, alumni plan hunger strike

In an unprecedented move to protest against lackadaisical attitude of the government, members of the faculty and alumni association of IIT-Kharagpur have decided to launch a hunger strike on July 17. It is part of a week-long nationwide protest beginning July 15.

The faculty and ex-students of the country’s premier technology institute are protesting against the delay in appointing Professor Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, or PPC, as he is better known among the students, as the institute’s next director, they stated in a communiqué to the media. They want him to be appointed the director on or before July 29.

The communiqué explained that in July 2012, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry had constituted a committee to search and select a new director for IIT-Kharagpur. It chose Chakrabarti, an exceptional scholar, who is also a President’s gold medallist from the same institute in 1985. “He is an inspiring teacher, an outstanding researcher and an able administrator. Prof Chakrabarti is suited to be IIT-Kharagpur's director,” Aneesh Reddy, one of the leaders of the demonstration, told reporters.

Reddy and his co-demonstrator Damayanti Bansal said: “Loved and respected by an entire generation of IIT-Kharagpur students and researchers, Chakrabarti was one of the youngest winners of the S S Bhatnagar Award. He has published papers in internationally acclaimed journals, which are also widely cited. He has also been the Dean of Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy at IIT-Kharagpur from 2004 to 2012 so his credentials as an able administrator are also not in question.”

While sources in the MHRD pointed out that the professor’s appointment is awaiting clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which is customary for such high-profile government jobs.Though the Board of Governors of IIT-Kharagpur cleared Chakrabarti once in March 2012 and again in March 2013 of any misconduct, the CVC is still holding on to the clearance due to reasons unknown.

“Even though the CVC rules specify that cases must be resolved within two months of filing a defence statement, under the CVC Guideline 000/VGL/18, dated May 23, 2000. We feel disappointed at the excessive delay in the appointment,” Reddy told journalists. While the decision to go for a hunger strike was taken at a general body meeting of the IIT Teachers Association on July 11, there could also be a “silent procession” during the Convocation ceremony in the presence of HRD Minister Pallam Raju.

The IIT alumni chapters have also decided to hold simultaneous protests on July 20 at Delhi’s India Gate, Bangalore’s Freedom Park and Park Street in Kolkata. The movement is being spearheaded by Arjun Malhotra, co-founder of HCL and Headstrong Inc.

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