A data request filed by a non-profit organisation, Egalitarians, under the Right to Information Act, has revealed severe under-representation of lower caste faculty in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur. Of the total 618 teaching staff, only one (0.15%) belongs to the Scheduled Tribes (STs), 10 (1.5%) to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), and 27 (4.1%) to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The mandatory reservation provided by the Government of India in central government-run institutions is 7.5% for the STs, 15% for the SCs, 27% for OBCs, and 10% for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs).
The numbers are no different in the PhD enrolment. In the academic year 2020-21, out of the total 905 students enrolled for PhD programmes, only 22 (2.43%) students belonged to the STs, 91 (10.06%) to the SCs, 204 (22.54%) to the OBCs, and 42 students (4.64%) were from the EWS category. The gender ratio in the institute is also highly skewed in the favour of men. Of the total 905 PhD students, only 305 (33.5%) were female. Three transgender candidates had also applied for doctoral programmes in 2020-21, however only one of them was shortlisted and none was finally enrolled.
The figures from the previous years also show dominance of the upper castes. In the academic year 2018-19, of the total 645 students enrolled for PhD programmes, only 17 (2.64%) belonged to the STs, 85 (13.18%) to the SCs, and 132 (20.47%) to the OBCs.
A member of the Egalitarians told me, “Albeit eating up a disproportionate chunk of the public funds, these premier institutions have always been lackadaisical in implementing reservations hiding under the argument of merit. Even the selection mechanism which these institutions follow is favourable to only a male student hailing from an upper caste. We feel that unless the nepotism prevailing in the IITs is removed by introducing and adhering to the norms of reservation strictly, in faculty recruitment and PhD admissions, it will be a distant dream to remove the systemic casteism and the associated oppressions from these campuses.”
The lack of representation is not limited to IIT Kharagpur. A few months ago, data from the IIT Bombay revealed that 11 out of 26 departments had not admitted a single PhD scholar belonging to the ST category in the last five years. From 2015-19 in PhD admission only 1.60% students belonged to ST category, 7.50% from SC and only 19.20% from OBC category.
A few weeks ago, a clip of an associate professor at IIT Kharagpur, Seema Singh, went viral, where Singh was seen hurling abuses at a group of students belonging to the marginalised communities. Owing to the outburst on social media, Singh’s blatant casteism was reported and she was suspended by the institute.