On empty stomach, 2,000 teachers give ‘save IITs’ call


New Delhi : Around 2,000 teachers of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) went on a hunger strike Thursday even as they took classes, attended seminars and toiled in labs after the government rejected their demand for better salaries.

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“Our protest is a huge success. It is one of its kind,” M. Thenmozi, head of the IIT faculty federation, told IANS.

“We took classes, attended seminars and worked in laboratories as we do regularly but all on empty stomach,” she said adding that they are “disappointed” by the government “apathy”.

Holding placards with ‘Save IITs’ written on them, many professors held a sit-in at the IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay but only “after attending their classes”. At the IIT Madras, faculties held a seminar on the IIT Vision 2030.

“There were talks, panel discussions and many more debates about the future of the IIT system,” Thenmozi, a professor at IIT Madras, told IANS over telephone.

She said around 2,000 faculty members joined the protest at 14 IITs across the country.

The federation Tuesday submitted a fresh memorandum to the human resource development (HRD) ministry but has not received any reply. “Nothing so far,” said M. Balakrishnan, a senior faculty member at IIT Delhi.

“We stayed hungry for a day. It’s OK. It’s a protest about some valid demands. We took classes and worked like a normal day but sat in the protest while not taking any classes,” Balakrishnan told IANS.

Teachers said while an increased pay structure is their key demand, the ministry’s 40 percent cap on their promotion to the next level is another contentious area.

They are also against the ministry’s proposal not to appoint fresh PhD holders as teachers in the IITs even though the institutions are facing a severe faculty crunch.

The ministry said that unless a candidate with a PhD has three years of teaching experience, he or she cannot be on the permanent rolls. But faculty members point out that this is not applicable to the university system but still applied to the IITs.

“There should not be any cap on excellence whether in appointment of fresh teachers or promotion of professors to a senior level,” said another IIT Delhi faculty member.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal Tuesday disapproved of the teachers’ protest plans. “The faculty behaviour doesn’t meet IIT standards,” he said.

The ministry has rejected the IIT faculty’s demand to make their salary at par with scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Thenmozi said they expect the HRD ministry to step in and solve the problem sooner than latter.

Meanwhile, the faculty federation and IIT directors meet, scheduled for Friday, was postponed as some of the directors are out of country.