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Press Trust of India|May 10, 2023
NEW DELHI: Nineteen of the 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) have dedicated cells for the welfare of historically-marginalised Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC-ST) students. Of them, 16 are non-functional, according to data obtained by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle at IIT Bombay through a Right to Information application.
Earlier in March, during the Budget session of parliament, the ministry of education had told Lok Sabha that 19 IITs have SC-ST cells. However, as per the RTI data received by APPSC, 18 cells have no funds allocated, 16 have not conducted any events after August 2022. These 16 include IIT BHU, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Hyderabad, and IIT Bhubaneswar.
The reply in Lok Sabha stated that 33 student suicides have been reported across IITs, in the last five years. In February 2023, a first-year dalit student died by suicide leading to allegations of caste-based discrimination on IIT Bombay campus.
Further, 12 of the 19 SC-ST cells have no room allotted to them for meetings and discussions; 11 ST/SC cells do not have any webpage or website available. Only IIT Delhi and Bombay have a separate website for ST/SC cells.
In March, IIT Delhi cleared the way to set up a SC-ST cell and also, as part of a broader mandate, approved reservation of Phd and faculty in the campus.
The govt said 19 out of 23 IITs had SC ST cells, but do they check if they are functioning. Our RTI data shows that most of these cells are just namesakes. Even on paper they don't do any sensitisation events, nor do they oversee implementation of reservation. @EduMinOfIndia pic.twitter.com/wMjPWCNxUo— APPSC IIT Bombay (@AppscIITb) May 1, 2023
According to data accessed by APPSC IIT Bombay from IIT websites, 10 out of 12 cells including IIT Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, Delhi, Tirupati, Goa, Hyderabad, Ropar, Patna, Hyderabad, Jammu and Bhubneswar, do not have information regarding reservation, nor check implementation of the reservation system. “None of the cells explicitly mention that reservation is under their purview. Only IIT Bhubaneswar and Delhi mention reservation on their websites,” said a member of APPSC, IIT Bombay. However, all the other IITs which mention SC/ST cells on their websites, just talk about grievance redress, he added.
The IITs which mention grievance redress for marginalised communities typically have a phone number or email provided. “Only two IITs out of 23 have proper information including the members of the cell, events conducted, purpose and responsibility, mentioned on their website,” he added.
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Also, while some IITs said in the RTI replies that their SC/ST cells conducted meetings, a member of APPSC IIT Bombay argued that “a meeting is not a sensitisation event, it is mostly meeting of the members and further the information available on the institutes websites corroborated to it”.
The University Grants Commission has issued guidelines for higher educational institutions to take measures against discrimination on campus. “While ST/SC cells are there in name only, the education ministry should make sure that all IITs implement the UGC guidelines and set up anti discrimination cells, implement reservation properly and conduct sensitisation events,” said a post from APPSC IIT Bombay on social media.
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