August 1, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the IIM Amendment Bill will enforce accountability or dilute autonomy. We also look at the new e-buses in Jammu & Kashmir, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
IIM Amendment Bill – Enforcing accountability or diluting autonomy?
Management education is the flavour of the season, luring aspirants with lucrative packages and clear career pathways. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) are the most coveted. As India opens its borders to internationally-renowned institutions, the Board of Governors (BoG), directors, faculty, and staff of Indian B-schools assume prime importance. They’re the protagonists who determine the trajectory of India’s management education 4.0.
Last week, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan opened the government up to a litany of criticisms against its enlarged role in the management of B-schools. He introduced, in Parliament, an amendment to the IIM Act, proposing to make the President the Visitor of all IIMs. It would make the IIMs more accountable, claims the Centre. “To whom?” the critics retort. Will the Bill truly engender greater responsibility, or are such claims too tall to be true?
The first two IIMs, set up in Kolkata and Ahmedabad in 1961, were registered as non-profit societies under the Societies Registration Act. Under the aegis of the Nehru administration and with funds from the Ford Foundation, the Planning Commission invited scholars from Harvard Business School and the University of California to share their recommendations.
The majority view was that these management institutions should be outside of the university system so they can maintain operational autonomy. The university system would just tie up the institutions in a host of managerial imperatives and bureaucratic processes that could only end in mediocrity.
The institutes rose phenomenally to the occasion, soon becoming a brand that not only propelled your career forward but also offered unbridled social capital in the marriage market. IIM Ahmedabad was ranked by QS WUR among the top 50 MBA institutions across the world, slipping only to 53 this year.
Since the beginning, the IIMs have opposed any moves by the government which could curtail their freedom. One of the earliest instances of IIMs locking horns with the Centre was back in 2003, under the Vajpayee government. The then-HRD Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, decided to play with the admission fees at the six extant first-generation IIMs, which included Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Indore, and Kozhikode.
He slashed the fees from ₹1.5 lakh to Rs 30,000. Now, the first-gen IIMs needed their hefty fees so they didn’t have to depend on the Centre for funds. You can imagine the tussle that ensued between the government and the IIMs. The matter got resolved only when the National Democratic Alliance lost the 2004 general elections and the new United Progressive Alliance government reversed Joshi’s order.
In the last few years, the question of autonomy has created some friction between the IIMs and the government. So, in 2017, the government passed The Indian Institutes of Management Act, declaring IIMs as institutions of national importance and enabling them to offer degrees instead of diplomas. Previously, the Centre was responsible for appointing Directors and Chairmen. With the 2017 Act, the BoG had greater autonomy over such matters.
Yet, the question of autonomy lays bare. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education made significant funding cuts to the IIMs, reducing their budget by half to ₹300 crore. While the first and second-generation IIMs remain unaffected, it would impact third-generation IIMs established within the last decade.
The recent amendment brings the Centre’s discretion back into the picture. It allows the President to appoint the Chairperson to the BoG and nominate a person to the search-cum-selection committee for the position of Director.
The President can initiate an inquiry against the institute in case of suspected contraventions and unseat the director. Not to mention, it lets the Centre form an interim board when the existing board is dissolved or suspended.
Now that we know the stakes of autonomy and something about its history in IIMs’ operations, what can we make of the proposed amendments?
VIEW: It’s all good
The amendments cut a lot of clutter in the management of IIMs. They formalise the government’s various roles in the operations and management of IIMs. While the Visitor’s role has been introduced and enhanced, the procedure to appoint a director will stay the same, except for an added step of requiring the Visitor’s approval.
According to some experts, the IIMs are considered public institutions, accountable to the citizens of India through parliament. To prevent them from transforming into private “fiefdoms,” the bill includes provisions to keep a close eye on the directors and Board of Governors. Atul Kumar, a policy analyst with the Ministry of Skill Development, emphasises the importance of vigilance regarding these provisions.
COUNTERVIEW: A tight leash
Increased regulation goes against promoting academic excellence in higher education. The proposed amendments go back on the promises of autonomy granted to IIMs under the 2017 Act and instead, regress to a proposed 2015 Bill that the community had opposed. The government’s move is another case of executive overreach, bound to limit representation in the board, faculty appointments, the direction of research, and other key areas of the institutions’ functioning. Together with the funding cuts, the amendments could severely dilute the IIMs’ autonomy.
The Opposition and voices from the IIM community jointly question whether granting the government a greater say in the institutes’ functioning would improve their accountability. Aren’t there better ways? An IIM Director argues that an autonomous board overseeing B-schools is a successful global model which can be equally effective in India. Some believe that the amendments if passed, would help the government instill ideological purity, punish detraction, and create an atmosphere of parochial intellectual curiosity. Take the IIM-Ahmedabad case, for example. In 2023, the director had to push back against the Ministry of Education when it asked the Institute for a copy of the thesis that Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy didn’t like.
- India’s Management Education Growth Story: A Retrospect – AIMA
- The Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017 – PRS
- Explained: In recent controversies, IIMs and the question of autonomy – The Indian Express
- IIM amendment bill proposing power to Prez to audit, order probes, appointments triggers autonomy debate – The Economic Times
- Centre’s new Bill proposes President as Visitor of IIMs – The Hindu
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The IIM Amendment Bill will enforce accountability.
b) The IIM Amendment Bill will dilute their autonomy.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
What do children dying of malnutrition in Gujarat tell us about the India development story?
For the Left:
Why Opposition logjam in Parliament is not doing any good to Manipur
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
New e-buses (Jammu & Kashmir) – The people of Jammu will soon have a new public transport option with the launch of 100 new e-buses. These new buses will be emission-free, air-conditioned, and have CCTV cameras for safety and surveillance. Some will run within the city limits, and others will ply between Jammu and Kathua, Udhampur, and Katra. The buses will also have e-ticketing services. The buses will be run by TATA for 12 years.
Why it matters: Jammu is looking to improve its public transport system and the e-buses look to be just the beginning. Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) Commissioner and CEO of Jammu Smart City Limited (JSCL) said the government will soon launch 80 electrical cycles in Jammu as other smart city projects get completed.
Trafficking survivors seek government help (Andhra Pradesh) – Survivors of human trafficking have appealed to the government for financial help as they face societal stigma. They want the government to involve village and ward sachivalayam staff to implement the Victim Compensation Act and make government schemes accessible. Several victims spoke on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Why it matters: They need money for their rehabilitation and their children’s education. In many of the rehabilitation centres, they continue to face threats, abuse, and harassment. With a lack of government and financial help, many women are forced to return to sex work. The guidelines from the government aren’t clear on how these women can get any assistance.
Training homestay owners (West Bengal) – The state tourism department will conduct training courses for homestay owners to help them hone their hospitality and customer management skills. The tourism department stated the courses will be through virtual classes with pre-recorded practical demonstrations so that they’ll be hassle-free and not time-consuming. The 20-hour course will be split into 8 hours of theory and 12 hours of practical classes.
Why it matters: Homestays are quite popular in the state. In north Bengal, eight districts have 1,608 officially registered homestays, with another 2,000 more unregistered. The Kalimpong district has the highest with 1,034 homestays. The government wants to help the owners through financial aid, training, and developing local infrastructure.
Farm loan waivers (Rajasthan) – With the upcoming elections in the state, the Ashok Gehlot government has proposed a committee to streamline the process of waiving farm loans. The government might introduce a special bill in the final Assembly session. If it becomes law, financial institutions won’t be able to seize and auction farmlands from farmers that can’t repay loans. Farmers can apply to the committee for loan waivers if they’re threatened by banks.
Why it matters: The Congress government has faced criticism for not waiving farm loans which it promised in the 2018 elections. The government’s request to the Centre to take quick action on waiving loans from nationalised, commercial, and land banks was rejected. While nationalised banks come under the Centre’s jurisdiction, cooperative banks are under the state’s.
Shelter for Manipur residents (Mizoram) – The Mizoram government is waiting on the Centre’s green light for financial assistance to help the state provide shelter to over 12,000 people from Manipur. In May, the state asked the Centre for ₹10 crore as a relief package for those displaced due to ethnic violence. So far, the government has had to raise money on its own.
Why it matters: With no money from the Centre, the state has sought donations from government employees and bankers. The Mizoram home department said a total of 12,611 people from Manipur have taken refuge in Mizoram. The government and village authorities have set up 38 relief camps in several districts.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
13.13 lakh – According to government data, more than 13.13 lakh girls and women went missing in the country between 2019 and 2021. Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest with over 1.6 lakh missing women and girls.