Citizens' Issues
Making admission to IITs fair

Students of IITs are bright no doubt, but it is the IIT experience that brings out the best out of the one who entered the institute. The admission process should be such that the ‘best’ get a fair chance

More than 50 years back, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were formed to provide engineering education of high standards to create able engineering manpower aimed at overcoming the poverty-ridden Indian nation. In addition to the objective of overcoming poverty, the nation had to look at making itself self-reliant in all walks of life and it was felt that it was possible only when we had a capable scientific and engineering manpower capable of not only executing projects but carry out research.

Education expenses were to be grossly subsidized at these IITs. This subsidy facilitated large number of talented students, right across the income levels and social spectrum to seek engineering education. To select the best for the limited seats, the Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) was evolved. The exam was tough and competitive and was equal playing field to students who had learnt their subjects at the 12th standard level and were quick in answering them at the IIT-JEE. Based on performance at this test, a merit list would get prepared for the students to select the stream of engineering they were to opt for. Admission to IITs was strictly on merit. No paper leak took place and everything appeared to be just to everyone. To sustain this standard over five decades is no mean performance. If changes are sought, it must be well thought out.

However, with the IT boom in the 1990s these young bright IIT graduates began to be picked up not just by universities but by IT firms in the US for employment. Hitherto they went to universities for higher education and many returned to IITs as faculty to teach and do research in their homeland. About 30% of faculty at IITs is IIT alumni. With the IT boom, competition to join IITs became severe and private coaching classes not only mushroomed all over but more so at a small town of Kota in Rajasthan, known till then for the sarees and floor tiles.

Students would concentrate on coaching rather than learning at the 11th and 12th standard classes and some even spent a year or two at Kota in preparation for the IIT-JEE. It was obvious that those who could afford these classes and reside at Kota would do so. They have looked at the education as business—focus, invest, get returns. It was only those who were so bright that they did not need rigorous coaching managed to be among the small number that were given admission out of two to three lakh aspirants. Many among those who missed a seat were equally bright; it was just that in that particular “one-day match” these aspirants fared marginally less than their potential.

When you pay much attention to your 11th and 12th standard course, there is an overall development. If you focus only on the JEE, it is at the cost of that development. IITs are not institutions churning out robots; they are to bring out thinking persons with all-round interests and abilities. Therefore IITs themselves have been thinking for some time now of how to make 11th and 12th standards relevant.

With this as background, let us jump to the “compromise formula” that has been agreed upon by IITs and the ministry of human resources—the Two Tier Exam. The first will be to shortlist a lakh of IIT aspirants from among now five lakh engineering course aspirants based on the merit list. The second tier examination will be the IIT-JEE style but with a rider that only those who rank among the top 20% of their respective boards will be eligible for admission to IITs.

Let us now look at whether critical criteria are met or not.

Currently all together IITs offer about 10,000 seats per year. This is 10% of a lakh being shortlisted from five lakh engineering aspirants in the country. The shortlisted one lakh anyway form 20% of five lakh, which is a substantial proportion. All aspirants would be eligible barring the exceptionally bright who might have fared poorly in their 11th and 12th standards. In the current system of near continuous evaluation in the 11th and 12th standards, it leaves very little scope to exceptionally bright student from not performing well enough to fall within the 20% of his or her board exam.

Now the question that is raised is about injustice to students of boards of better standards not falling within the top 20% of their boards but are by that virtue better than many of lower standard boards. Prima facie this appears to be true. But if you see that in the first tier exam this student from boards of better standards has not performed well and has got eliminated while the one from “lower standard board” has got through, first ‘just’ filtering has taken place.

The question to ask is whether IITs must take only the ‘best’ students or should they also have a collective ‘best’ which provided equal opportunity to the collective best? Doesn’t the nation have the responsibility of providing opportunity to the bright young student who was born to less affluent parents and also has belonged to boards by virtue of being resident in a particular state or town where no other “better standard” boards exist and also cannot get coaching but like Ekalavya, has worked hard with high motivation and crossed the first tier barrier? Should he or she be deprived of the education IITs provide? One must remember that this youngster is Ekalavya.

In our democratic polity, Ekalavyas must a find place. Students of IITs are bright no doubt, but it is the IIT experience that brings out the best out of the one who entered the institute. Ekalavyas will always shine if his or her thumb is not cut off as Guru Dakshina.

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07).  He is member of the committee constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the suburban railways system friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011- ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at sudhirbadami@gmail.com)
 

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Ashok Chavan, 12 others chargesheeted in Adarsh scam

The CBI alleged that records were manipulated and fabricated to get the land allotted in favour of the housing society in an illegal manner and also got various clearances

Mumbai: Maharashtra's former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was among 13 people chargesheeted by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Adarsh scam on Wednesday with the Congress leader being accused of granting some approvals to the upscale Housing society here as a quid pro quo for allotment of two flats for his kin, reports PTI.

Describing as unfortunate and unexpected the 10,000-page chargesheet in connection with alleged irregularities in the scam, Chavan, who was forced to quit as Chief Minister in November 2010 after the scam surfaced, accused his political rivals of trying to implicate him.

"This (CBI chargesheet) is unfortunate and unexpected. The Adarsh housing is only an administrative matter. However, there is a conspiracy by my rivals to malign me. The Adarsh issue has been blown out of proportion," he told reporters after the chargesheet was filed in the Sessions court.

The central probe agency had registered a case in the scam in the housing society in Colaba on January 29 last year under IPC sections including criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and showing forged documents as genuine, besides sections pertaining to Prevention of Corruption Act.

In its chargesheet, CBI charged Chavan with approving additional floor space index (FSI) for the housing society during his tenure as the Chief Minister and alleged that he gave these approvals as a quid pro quo for getting flats alloted for his mother-in-law and brother-in-law.

CBI also accused Chavan of illegally approving allotment of 40% of flats for civilians in the housing society, which was said to be meant for Kargil widows and war heroes, during his tenure as Revenue Minister in 2001-03. He had dealt with files pertaining to the ownership of land.

The chargesheet also named retired Army officers -- Brig (retd) MM Wanchoo, Major Generals TK Kaul and AR Kumar, Colonels TK Sinha and R Bakshi, ex-Congress MLC KL Gidwani, IAS officer Jairaj Phatak and former CIC Ramanand Tiwari.

Besides them, society members RC Thakur, PV Deshmukh, Subhash Lala and Pradeep Vyas have also been named by the CBI

The chargesheet came notwithstanding the claims made by Maharashtra Government before the Bombay High Court that the agency had no jurisdiction in probing the case.

CBI informed the Bombay High Court that it was going to file a chargesheet in the case after which the agency submitted the document in the Sessions Court.

The statements of union ministers and former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde, who are under the scanner in the Adarsh scam, have not been incorporated in the chargesheet.

"Neither was I associated with allotment of land to the Adarsh society nor did I have anything to do with the list of its members," Chavan said.

"I have full faith in the judiciary and am confident that I will will be proved innocent and emerge out unscathed," the former Chief Minister said, adding that he would be consulting his legal team and decide further course of action on the issue.

The CBI informed the court that though the names of Pradeep Vyas and Jairaj Phatak have been included in the chargesheet, the agency was still awaiting their sanction for prosecution from Department of Personnel.

It has dropped two names among the 14 people against whom an FIR was filed in January 29 last year. They are retired Brigadiers P K Rampal and Romesh Chandra Sharma.

However, the CBI included the name of retired Col R Bakshi who allegedly gave a letter certifying that the land did not belong to the Army.

CBI also said in its chargesheet that benami transactions were still under investigations and the agency might file a supplementary chargesheet in the case.

The CBI has cited 150 witnesses in the case.

The allegations in the chargesheet broadly are that Thakur along with Wanchoo conspired with the members of Defence services officers, officials and functionaries of Maharashtra Government with the intention to illegally get the land allotted in favour of Adarsh cooperative housing society in which they were the members.

The CBI alleged that records were manipulated and fabricated to get the land allotted in favour of the housing society in an illegal manner and also got various clearances from the Municipal authorities and the state government.

According to the chargesheet, former Deputy General officer in Command Maj Gen Kumar allegedly abused his position and dishonestly and fraudulently issued a purported NOC to the collector Mumbai for the development of the plot.

The CBI alleged that former Congress MLA Kaniyalal Gidwani joined the conspiracy with the motive to exercise his personal influence with the public servants in the state Government and offer them membership for showing favour to the society.

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Maharashtra says CBI cannot probe Adarsh scam

Maharashtra government and Adarsh Society are questioning CBI's authority to probe the case nearly a year-and-half after agency started its investigation

 

Mumbai: Even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday filed its charge sheet in the Adarsh scam, the Bombay High Court allowed Ministry of Defence (MoD) to submit its response within two weeks to Maharashtra government's claim that the central agency had no jurisdiction to probe it, reports PTI.

The Maharashtra government and the Adarsh society filed their affidavits before the court questioning the agency's authority to probe the case without its approval, nearly a year-and-half after it began the investigation.

They contested the propriety of the CBI probe on the ground that neither the state government nor the High Court had handed over the investigation to the premier investigative agency.

The affidavit submitted by the counsel for the state government AY Sakhare said the state had not made any request under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, to CBI to investigate the scam. The agency derives its powers from this Act to investigate cases.

The division bench comprising justices SA Bobade and Mridula Bhatkar allowed the MoD to intervene in the public interest litigations (PILs) in the Adarsh scam after its counsel Kevic Setalvad opposed the state government's claim that Adarsh land belonged to it and that CBI cannot probe the scam.

He pleaded before the court to allow MoD to intervene in the matter which was granted.

Counsels for Adarsh Society and state government Shekhar Naphade and AY Sakhare opposed MoD lawyer's plea to intervene in the matter, saying the Adarsh Inquiry Commission had already settled the issue of ownership of the land in state's favour.

The judges said the court would have to examine whether any order was passed earlier asking the CBI to probe the scam.

It was on a recommendation from MoD that the CBI had launched a probe in the Adarsh scam.

The affidavit filed by Ruprao Deshmukh, Joint Secretary in the Home department, said, on CBI's specific request the state had made available the records and extended all cooperation to the premier investigative agency.

The affidavit said the Adarsh Inquiry Commission appointed by the state to probe alleged irregularities in construction of the building in upscale Colaba had submitted its interim report in April and that it will take appropriate action after receiving the final report.

After hearing the arguments, justices Bobade and Bhatkar directed the MoD to file an affidavit in response to Maharashtra government's stand within two weeks and adjourned the hearing on the PILs till 18th July.

The court allowed the MoD access to all documents to enable it to file its reply.

The court was hearing PILs filed by social activists Simpreet Singh and Pravin Wategaonkar seeking monitoring of the probe by the High Court and invoking provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case.

The agency had registered a case in the scam on January 29 last year under IPC sections including criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and showing forged document as genuine, besides sections pertaining to Prevention of Corruption Act.

Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Congress leader KL Gidwani, top-ranking retired army officers Lt General PK Rampal, Major Generals AR Kumar and TK Kaul, retired brigadiers RC Sharma and MM Wanchoo are among the accused.

The FIR also names Subash Lala, the then principal secretary to Chief Minister, former principal secretary of the Urban Development Department Ramanand Tiwari, former municipal commissioner and IAS officer Jairaj Phatak and fellow IAS colleague and former Mumbai collector Pradeep Vyas as accused.

The late mother-in-law and sister-in-law of Chavan had flats in the society. Chavan was Revenue Minister between 2001-2003 and had dealt with files pertaining to the ownership of land. He is alleged to have recommended allotment of 40% flats in the building to civilians and also changed the development plan to favour the society which was said to be meant for Kargil widows and war heroes.

The MoD had ordered a CBI probe in the scam on the recommendation of the Army Chief following a preliminary inquiry.

Besides CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department are also probing the irregularities.

Apart from Chavan, two former Maharashtra Chief Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh are under the lens for granting clearances in violation of norms.

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