After Scrutiny Over Suicides, IIT Madras Faces Probe By SC/ST Commission

IIT Madras made the headlines last month after a first year student of its integrated MA program, was found dead in her hostel room - the fifth case of suicide reported in the past 11 months

A first year IIT Madras student was found dead in her hostel room last month

Chennai:

IIT Madras, one of the country's premier educational institutions, is facing allegations of discrimination against students and faculty from Dalit communities. Among the concerns and complaints raised are the lack of reservation and promotion in jobs, as well as allegations of mental harassment and abuse leading to student and faculty suicides, and the lack of a liaison officer to coordinate between employees and students from Dalit communities and the IIT Madras administration.

Concerns have also been raised over barriers to admittance; over the last decade 2,320 students were admitted to the Master of Science (MS) program but only 47 were from Scheduled Castes and only 6 were from Scheduled Tribes. In the same period nearly 4,000 PhDs were awarded, but only 213 went to students from Scheduled Castes and 21 to those from Scheduled Tribes.

Swaraj Vidwaan, member of the national commission on SC/ST who visited the campus recently, has confirmed a probe will be launched. The commission, which has released a statement on the situation, has indicated it will also inform Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind.

"This has been going on forever... as far as faculty is concerned, basically IIT never advertises. Only online applications... and even though there are not many qualified candidates from Dalit communities, those that apply are rejected even if they have degrees from abroad," Dr E Muralidharan, an IIT Madras alumnus, told NDTV.

"The Madras High Court has said all applications must be interviewed... it is the law... but still these jobs go to upper caste candidates. 88 per cent of jobs go to them even though they are not supposed to cross 50 per cent limit," he added.

Professor Bhaskar Ramamurthi, IIT-Madras Director, claims there is a shortage of qualified candidates from Scheduled Caste and/or Tribes. The institution, however, is addressing this sensitive issue.

"We are alert to this... the Government of India has a clear policy and we want to be compliant. It is a challenge... the number of eligible candidates for faculty is less, but the situation is changing. Also, PhD enrolment by candidates is increasing... 300 reserved category scholars enrolled for PhD this year," he told NDTV in July.

IIT Madras made the headlines last month after a first year student of its integrated MA program, was found dead in her hostel room. The family of the student, a young Muslim woman, had alleged discrimination and claimed she had named three faculty members in an alleged suicide note left on her mobile phone.

That was the fifth case of suicide reported from IIT Madras in the past 11 months; four were students and one was a woman faculty member.

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