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PMO Raises Autonomy Red Flag Over HRD’s IIM Rules

PUBLISH DATE 10th July 2018

THE DEBATE While PMO says many provisions in proposed rules could amount to a back-door entry for govt control in IIMs, the ministry feels some checks and balances need to be built in

Why should the government prescribe or suggest anything on student fees at Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) if they are autonomous by law, the Prime Minister’s Office is learnt to have asked the human resource development (HRD) ministry.

Red-flagging a range of concerns over the proposed IIM Rules, the PMO has again entered into an autonomy debate with the HRD ministry, saying that many provisions it is seeking to bring in will be seen as antithetical to the autonomy promised to IIMs by an Act of Parliament and could amount to a back-door entry for governmental control.

The Prakash Javadekar-led HRD ministry, however, strongly feels that it is imperative to retain certain provisions in the IIM Rules to ensure that “checks and balances’ are built in, ET has learnt. The issue was discussed threadbare at a meeting earlier this month with the PMO raising several questions on fees, the signing of MoU by each IIM and the removal of the board of governors’ (BoG) chairperson.

DIFFERENCES OF OPINION

The IIM Rules say that the IIM board must “ensure that fee charged from the students shall be commensurate with the overall expenditure for maintenance and expansion of the institute”.

While the HRD ministry feels this caveat is necessary keeping the interest of students in mind, the PMO thinks that a natural check will come if an IIM imposes an unreasonably high fee, as then lesser number of students will opt for that institute. IIM fee has also been a politically sensitive issue for years now with a controversy breaking out in 2004 during the first term of NDA government when then HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi slashed the fee.

Another area where views of the PMO and the ministry differ is over the removal of the chairperson of the IIM Board. The ministry wants a clause that makes it mandatory that the removal of the chairperson would need a board decision by “consensus” rather than a “majority”. There are concerns that the board may remove a chairperson if even nine of the 15 members rally together.

Since representatives of both state and central government are on the board of governors, insisting that a unanimous decision could help safeguard the chairperson’s position against a self-perpetuating board. The PMO disagrees with this clause as well. It feels that such a provision will go against the spirit of IIMs’ autonomy.

Similarly, the PMO feels there is no need for the IIM Rules to ask each institute to sign MoU with the government spelling out performance parameters, output targets, roadmaps and annual budgets.

While the HRD ministry has cited the requirements of the General Financial Rules 2017 which ask for every institute to sign a MoU with the government and the same being done with all IITs, central universities and other educational institutes, the PMO feels there is no need to enshrine this in the IIM Rules.

THE AUTONOMY QUESTION

Balancing autonomy has, in fact, been the big challenge with the IIM Rules — in the works for months now. Old IIMs and new ones have differed strongly on the subject of a self-perpetuating and all-powerful board of governors.

A panel headed by IIM Sirmaur chairman Ajay Sriram had recommended draft IIM Rules but the ministry found gaps in them.

 

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