Delay in appointment of Director for IIT Kharagpur: Politics or Red tape?

IIT Kharagpur is without a regular Director since July 2012! How long does it take it formally appoint the Director of a major institute in the country? Shouldn’t it be a priority of some kind? How can we expect the best from our premier institutions when the government takes such a lackadaisical approach to the appointment of its top leadership?

It turns out that the Ministry of HRD had selected Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti as early as last July, but his final appointment was subject to a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) clearance which is linked to a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)  case of 2007. The CBI had recommended minor penalties to Prof. Chakrabarti despite the fact that he was neither involved technically or financially in the project. The CVC, however, does not appear to be inclined to bring the case to conclusion for unknown reasons. In the mean time, IIT Kharagpur’s Board of Governors (BOG) cleared Prof. Chakrabarti of any wrong doing once in March 2012 and again on March 23, 2013.

Prof. Chakrabarti, being a gold medalist of IIT Kharagpur in the mid-eighties, has impeccable credentials and tremendous support and goodwill among students and faculty, both past and present. His commitment to the institute and his integrity has never been in question to many who have known and interacted with him over the years. Yet, his final appointment remains stalled over a case that many argue has little to do with him personally.

The intent is not to blindly absolve Prof. Chakrabarti of any wrong doing, if any. If the professor was, in fact, involved in a case of corruption, let the matter be brought to light. If he is innocent, then let the matter be closed and his appointment confirmed at the earliest. By letting the matter fester in a limbo, the government is adversely affecting a premier institution in the country and perhaps needlessly casting aspersions on a well-respected individual who has dedicated his life to the institute ever since he set foot there as a student.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Need changes to ground rules before 2014 election

The display of public discontent with our political class began with the Anna movement in August of 2011 for the Lokpal. After deeply concerned citizens hit the streets across the country and Jantar Mantar in Delhi, our parliamentarians unanimously signed a resolution to end the impasse. Almost two years have gone by. The resolution is now forgotten. A ghost of the Lokpal bill is doing the rounds of parliamentary committees today. As things stand now, the Lokpal bill is dead for all practical purposes. “Mission Accomplished,” as far as our political class is concerned.

More recently, we have the CIC ruling to bring national political parties under the purview of the Right to Information Act. Once again, a very legitimate issue that strikes at the very heart of our deeply corrupt political system. As in the case of the Lokpal issue, once again, our politicians across party lines are unanimous in their opposition to this ruling. The primary reason, of course, is that all our parties have access to unaccounted and often illegal sources of money. This forms the backbone of everything, beginning with election funding to their day to day operations. In other words, our political parties have an established system that works for them, and they have no reason to reform or change it. As for the donors, they love the system too. They contribute to all major political parties, all their contributions are unaccounted, and they have everything to gain, no matter who comes to power. Besides, this system keeps out the Aam Aadmi and any new entrants to the political system who are likely to upset the applecart.

Not surprisingly, the government is likely to introduce an ordinance to override the Central Information Commissioner’s (CIC) ruling to crush the issue until later. As one can imagine, this ordinance is bound to have universal support among political parties. Meanwhile, savvy politicians on all sides take this opportunity to obfuscate the issue by suggesting that we need a broader discussion (in other words, a discussion that will never have a conclusive end!) which includes electoral reforms. “The CIC ruling by itself makes little sense without a discussion on electoral reforms,” they argue. Clearly, this is the very same strategy that reduced the Lokpal bill to legislative roadkill. Don’t address the issue at hand, but “broaden” the discussion so the fundamental issue is lost in the noise.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times