Open Letters

An Open Letter to the Hon’ble MPs (Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha) to bring a Calling-Attention-Motion, in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament for the year 2021, to discuss the Institutionalized Discrimination at the IITs and the IIMs

15th July 2021

While, in about one year from now, India marks the 75th anniversary of Independence, the state of Adivasi and Dalit representation in the India’s elite institutional spaces are abjectly miserable. Data collected through the RTI act reveals that of the total (excluding IIT Mandi) 5945 teaching faculties in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), only 0.6 % belong to the Scheduled Tribes (STs), 3.1 % belong to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), and 8.1 % belong to the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) (the caste category wise number of teaching faculties for each IITs are listed in the Annexure I). Similarly, in the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), of the total 667 teaching faculties (excluding IIM Ahmedabad, Indore, and Rohtak), only 0.4 % are ST, 2.7 % are SC, and 6.0 % are OBC (the caste category wise number of teaching faculties for each IIMs are listed in the Annexure II). The picture is exactly the same when it comes to PhD admissions. Although the applicants from the reserved communities, against the claim of insufficiency, are significantly large (see Annexure III for instance), reservation norms are never obeyed. The recent resignation of a faculty member from the IIT Madras citing caste discrimination and Prof Seema Singh’s caste-ist remarks against the students at the IIT Kharagpur are examples of how alienating these elite institutes are for the students and scholars from Dalit-Adivasi community. Most of these institutes do not even have a functional SC/ST cell.

On 23rd April 2020, the Ministry of Education (MHRD then) constituted an eight-member committee under the chairmanship of Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao (Director, IIT Delhi) to suggest measures for effective implementation of reservation in admissions and faculty recruitment. The committee submitted its five-page report on 17th June 2020. Ironically, the report (see Annexure IV), recommends, among other things, that the ‘IITs ought to be listed’ under section 4 (1) (a) of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019 – which exempts the listed institutes from following reservation in faculty recruitment.

Despite being unconstitutional and immoral, these institutes continue to perpetuate theinstitutional reproduction of inequality and maintain the Homo-academicus status-quo. They could do so by claiming to preserve the academic merit and by being the ‘institutions of national importance’. Merit, for these institutes, is caste-privilege couched in different language. Philosopher Michael J. Sandel (Harvard University) in his recently published treatise titled ‘The Tyranny of Merit’ responds to the apostles of meritocracy that “those who land on top do not make it on their own but owe their good fortune to family circumstance and native gifts that are morally akin to the luck of the draw.” Seen in this light, meritocracy is certainly not synonymous with democracy or in Prof Sandal’s words “the meritocratic ideal is not a remedy for inequality; it is a justification of inequality.”

Dr Ambedkar in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly gave the following warning: “How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy.” With due respect to you, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, and to your fair sense of judgement, we would like to emphasise that by abrogating the constitutionally mandated minimal reservation in these elite institutes we are putting our ‘political democracy in peril.’ We urge you to bring a calling-attention-motion, in the upcoming monsoon session of the parliament, to discuss this institutionalised discrimination in these elite academic spaces. We appeal to you to remind these institutes that being ‘institutions of national importance’ they should set an example for the rest in obeying the law of the land.

Our demands are the following:

  1. The mandated reservation should be followed, in letter-and-spirit, both in faculty recruitment and PhD admission.

a) The reservation should be applied not just to the institutes but also to the individual departments and pay-grade wise faculty recruitment (viz., Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor). If necessary, the CEI (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act 2019 should be amended in this regard.

b) All the reservation vacancies in the faculty cadre should be filled within two academic years.

c) Cut-off (CGPA) requirement in PhD admissions should be done away with.

  1. The Ministry of Education should ensure from time-to-time that all higher educational institutes have a functional SC/ST Cell, and the grievances are redressed on time.

a) Ministry should create a cell to enforce and monitor reservations in all IITs, IIMs, NITs, IISC, IISERs, Central Universities, and autonomous educational institutes that come under the Government of India.

  1. The Government of India should increase the number of annual National Overseas Scholarships (NOS) to 1000 for the Dalit-Adivasi students to study abroad. Compared to states like Govt of Karnataka – that offers annually 500 NOS to pursue higher studies abroad – the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (GoI) annually offers only 100 NOS and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs annually offers only 20 NOS.

a) The Ministry of Tribal Affairs should change the selection procedure of the NOS in consonance with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment by dropping the selection-by-interview method as it paves way for bias in selection.

  1. The recommendations of the Prof. Ramgopal Rao committee should be declared null and void.
  1. All IITs and IIMs should issue a public apology for ignoring to obey reservation norms thus far.


I. Faculty caste diversity at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) as on March 2021

II. Faculty caste diversity at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as on March 2021

III. Caste diversity in 2020-21 PhD admissions at the IIT Kharagpur

IV. Prof Ramgopal Rao committee report dated 17th June 2020

Annexure I

Faculty caste diversity at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) as on March 2021

Annexure II

Faculty caste diversity at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as on March 2021

Annexure III

Faculty caste diversity at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as on March 2021

Annexure IV

Prof Ramgopal Rao committee report dated 17th June 2020 – Click here to access.