For most of history, the general public has been least interested in thinking about academia in their everyday life but we are living amidst changing times. Soon enough we can expect public discourse on thesis and dissertation now that the government has begun to scrutinize them.
The Letter To The Prime Minister
Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has objected to a dissertation with three essays on ‘electoral democracy’ approved for the award of Ph.D. degree at a seminar chaired by Errol D’Souza in March 2020, the director of IIM Ahmedabad.
In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr. Swamy expressed his concern over the fact that the thesis said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were “ethnically constituted” parties while also labelling BJP as “a pro-Hindu upper caste party.”
Mr. Swamy further elaborated his concern in his letter by stating that the PM was not an upper-caste leader and that such narratives were “propagated” by British historians to show that India was never “one country” and its society was never united.
Mr. Swamy then went ahead and urged the government that IIM Ahmedabad should be directed to “re-examine” the thesis by independent professors and that the Ph.D. be kept on hold until then.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) had asked IIM Ahmedabad for a copy of the thesis in April 2020, following the objection from Mr. Swamy.
How Did The Institute React?
Soon enough, the institute was asked to share a copy of the thesis by the Ministry Of Education. To which, Mr. Errol D’Souza, the director of IIM Ahmedabad wrote back that the Ministry is not an arbiter of complaints regarding a thesis.
He also added that the Thesis Advisory and Examination Committee of the Institute had read the thesis, and parts of it were presented to a select academic community at the viva, and anyone having a complaint should have raised it at these forums.
Mr. D’Souza’s stand on declining to share the thesis when asked by the Ministry of Education was cited in the government’s justification for seeking powers to initiate an inquiry against the Board of Governors (BoG) of an IIM, which is in contravention of the IIM Act.
Read More: Disaffiliation From Delhi University: Sri Venkateshwara College Students And Faculty Protest
However, this incident is not to be taken as an isolated one, since there have been attempts made in the past to dilute the autonomy of such institutes.
An Attempt To Dilute The Autonomy?
After almost three years of granting autonomy to the 20 IIMs spread across India, under the IIM Act, the Ministry of Education (MoE) in December 2020, was said to be considering a proposal to dilute the autonomy of the premier institutes.
The proposal was however a violation of the said IIM Act, which gives sweeping powers to all 20 of India’s premier business schools, including the appointment of directors, chairpersons, and members of the board of governors. Hence, it was shelved by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
As per the IIM law, any provision permitting the government to take action against the institute can only be introduced through an amendment in the law.
What do you think about the intervention of the government in higher education? Let us know in the comment section.
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