At IIT, SC/ST quota before admission?

August 13, 2009: The Times of India

IIM-B among top 10 Asia-Pacific schools   

Employers are making a B-line for IIM-B, according to a survey. The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, is among the top 10 preferred B-schools in the Asia Pacific region. The QS Global top 200 business schools 2009 survey has put IIM-B at sixth position in the region.

Aspirant kills self   

An 18-year-old IIT aspirant killed herself hours before the Joint Entrance Exam deeply troubled by the thought that she had prepared poorly for the highly competitive test. Gouri was to appear for the exam on Sunday.

Mumbai: Buoyed by the success of implementing the OBC quota, the government now wants the Indian Institutes of Technology to employ reservation even before the admission process begins. This time around, the Centre has written to the IITs asking them to allow Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students more shots at the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE). 

Currently, the premier tech colleges adopts a caste-blind policy towards all aspirants at the preliminary stage of conducting the exam. Each one, no matter what group he or she belongs to, is allowed a maximum of two attempts at the competitive entrance exam. 

Gautam Barua, director of IITGuwahati, the institute which is incharge of JEE-2009, confirmed the receipt of such a letter from the government. However, he said that the note came in late for such a rule to be implemented this year. ‘‘The Joint Admission Board will take a look at the letter and examine what a provision like this will translate into. Even if we decide to implement the request, it will only be done for 2010,’’ Barua added. Most selection and admission rules for JEE are drawn from the recruitment norms designed for appointing Union government officers. In fact, till recently the JEE, like the civil services exam, was a two-tier test — lakhs of students sat for the preliminary screening, following which a few thousands took the mains. 

But in September 2005, a committee headed by C N R Rao, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Committee, reviewed the system and decided to limit the attempts to two. Rao observed that several aspirants languished for years in coaching classes trying to crack the exam, ‘‘little realising or believing that they were cut out for something else’’, a director had then said, while giving a reason for the committee’s decision. 

In 2006, the JEE turned a new chapter and became a single-tier, objective, race-against-time exam testing students on the fundamentals (and their applications) of physics, chemistry and maths. But time and again, the JEE has come under the attack of political interference. ‘‘There is a lot of pressure from the government to allow SC/ST students to take the JEE more number of times,’’ said a JEE-2009 chairman. 

The IITs already set aside 15% seats for SCs and 7.5% slots for STs in each stream of engineering offered. A separate merit list with relaxed cut-offs is drawn up each year for selecting reserved category students. In fact late last year, the IIT directors decided to allow a 50% relaxation of scores for them from 2009, up from 40%. 

With regard to the JEE-2008 scores, if the last general category student was admitted with an overall score of 172 out of 489, the aggregate cut-off for an SC/ST student was 104 (after a 40% relaxation). If the general category cut-off in 2009 remains the same, the bar for SC/ST candidates would be lowered to 86 (50% of 172). 

The JAB will soon take a call on the government’s note. But several oldtime professors in off-the-record conversations have rued the unfolding political interference. ‘‘As academicians we tend to steer clear of the bureaucracy. But of late, vote-bank agendas are being thrust on our institutions. Either we will have to change, or the IITs will change, forever,’’ an IITKharagpur faculty member said.


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