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Quotas are route to inequality at IITs, IIMs
As Reported By Mayank Tewari in DNA, Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Their dropout rates are higher at IITs, and salaries lower at IIMs
NEW DELHI: The recent decision of the Indian Institute of Technology
(IIT), Delhi, to terminate 25 students, many of them from the
scheduled caste category, for poor performance has raised hackles all
While the National Commission for Scheduled Castes is pressuring the
institute to take them back, the issue that cannot be wished away is
their actual performance after gaining entry into these hallowed
Have quotas really worked? How do students from the scheduled castes
and scheduled tribes (SC/ST), inducted on the basis of lower
qualifying marks, fare in terms of performance and salaries at the
IITs and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)? Are they able to
cope with high academic pressures?
DNA, which used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to extract numbers
on SC/ST performance from reluctant institutions, has some answers. We
found that quotas don't work as well in the IITs, where the demands
for academic excellence are higher, but the results are reasonable
when it comes to the IIMs.
It's clear that dropout rates are high among SC/ST candidates at the
IITs; at the IIMs, their average salaries are also lower than general
category students. The big differences, though, come up in the case of
top performers. At IIM, Kozhikode, the highest salary earned by a
general category student was Rs70 lakh this year; the highest earned
by the SC/ST candidate was just Rs13 lakh. The differences in average
salaries were lower: for general category students, it was Rs15.84
lakh, for SC/ST Rs11.01 lakh.
The real problem area seems to be the IITs. According to information
provided by IIT-Powai in Mumbai, 21 SC/ST students were asked to
terminate their undergraduate BTech course in 2006-2007. In the last
three years, the number of reserved category students terminating
their courses at Powai has risen quietly. In 2005-2006, the institute
had asked 20 SC/ST students to pack their bags. A year earlier, in
2004-2005, 19 students left without completing the course. Between
2003 and 2007, the yearly average dropout number for IIT, Powai, is a
high 16 students .
Two other IITs — in Delhi and Kharagpur, for which DNA has data — had
lower average dropout rates of 11 and eight among SC/ST candidates.
The dropout rate for general category students at IIT, Powai, hovers
around 1-2% and, according to faculty members, is nowhere close to
that of reserved category students.
Students are asked to terminate their courses when they accumulate
more backlogs (courses failed) than permitted by IIT rules. "There is
no semester-wise fail/pass system at IIT, Powai. Students can continue
further studies with up to four backlogs (failed courses) at the end
of each semester, till the second year, or up to six backlogs at the
end of each semester during the third and subsequent years of study,"
says Dr Indu Saxena, deputy registrar at IIT, Powai.
But things are better at IIT, Delhi, where yearly dropout rates have
stabilised in the range of 3-9 for SC/STs combined after a peak of 23
in 2002. A professor at IIT, Delhi, told DNA that the institutes
seldom have any control over dropout rates. "The quality of reserved
category students every year is variable, unlike general category
admissions, where merit is the sole criteria. In the case of reserved
categories, sometimes totally undeserving candidates are admitted who
cannot meet the standards set by the institute," he said.
The gap between general and SC/ST category students is less stark at
the IIMs, where average salary differentials are not seriously out of
whack. DNA, however, found that students from the general category
fared much better than reserved category students in terms of salaries
offered at campus.
IIM, Ahmedabad, did not share details about the highest salary offered
to SC/ST candidates in 2008, but the highest obtained by general
category students was Rs60 lakh. Average salary levels for the last
two years show some serious divergences.
Last year, the average salary offered to a general category student at
IIMA was Rs13.70 lakh, while an SC/ST candidate got Rs11.14 lakh. This
year, the general category average was Rs17.81 lakh while the average
salary given to reserved category students was Rs14.50 lakh.
According to Bakul Dholakia, former director of IIM, Ahmedabad,
disparities in salaries are not surprising. "At IIMA, we have always
acknowledged the academic differences between general and reserved
category students. It is generally assumed that reserved category
students, on an average, score 20% less than their general category
counterparts. Keeping this in mind, an average salary difference of
Rs3-4 lakh between general and reserved category students is logical,"
he told DNA.
Piyush Sinha, professor at IIMA, feels that "average salaries figures
are not sufficient to conclude that reserved category students at IIMs
do not perform as well as their counterparts in the general category."
According to him, "there are many factors that decide the salary
during campus recruitments. The companies which come to the campuses
are never given out the names of candidates based on caste. Everything
works on merit."
DNA - India - Quotas are route to inequality at IITs, IIMs - Daily News & Analysis
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