I have been getting serious push-back from commenters (who I presume are IIT faculty members) in these posts. I thank them because their comments helped me in clarifying my own thoughts on what I am arguing for and why.
First, a quick recap:
What the IIX faculty have are specific grievances.
But not all of them are of equal importance. I have argued that the one about OCAP is the only grievance that's Really Big. If it is followed to the letter, it'll hurt IIXs very, very badly (especially in the next couple of years).
Scrapping OCAP should be a non-negotiable demand.
Compared to the OCAP problem, the other grievances are a piffle. I mean, I may agree with you (not very vigorously, though!) if you demand that the not-so-stellar professors should have a shot at an extra Rs. 1,500 per month. If you now say this demand should be non-negotiable, I would suggest you get out more, get some perspective, and get a life ...
* * *
With that out of the way, let me now turn to why I think the use of the 'autonomy' plank is a big mistake. If you are not with me on the importance of scrapping OCAP, you are unlikely to find the following particularly persuasive.
By using a nebulous concept called autonomy, the IIT FAs took the focus away from OCAP. They have side-tracked themselves, the media and the public.
I fear that the OCAP issue now stands diluted and de-emphasized, since it became one of several pieces in that all-inclusive container called autonomy. To me, this is a great tragedy.
IIT FAs' arguments -- "we have had a flexible policy of career progression, and you have no right to tamper with it" -- seek to protect a certain way of (organizational) life. By demanding autonomy in this narrow sense, they have ended up allowing the government (and the public) to ask uncomfortable questions.
Questions such as: What you have done with that autonomy in the past? How many of your professors are underperforming, and why? Have you used your autonomy to get them out of their rut?
IIT FAs may have legitimate answers to all such questions, but you must realize that the debate has now got even more side-tracked!
As I said in an earlier post, autonomy is one of those motherhood-masala-dosa concepts. But the problem is that there are other such unimpeachable concepts, and they can be invoked in opposition to the demand for autonomy.
Kapil Sibal did precisely this: "competition." In that NDTV show, for example, he portrayed the 40 percent cap on senior professors as an incentive for professorial duds to get off their asses and re-join the rat race -- all over again! For a grand prize of 1,500 rupees per month!
In just a couple of sentences, he managed to paint IIT FAs as batting for losers and competition-averse cowards. Again, IIT FAs may have legitimate counterarguments, but you must realize that the issue has got side-tracked again.
[BTW, he used a similar tactic in trashing the demand for the right to hire post-docs with short stints as assistant professors. He converted this issue into an argument about "contract" vs. "tenure". He painted IITs as gullible entities that don't demand their recruits to prove themselves before offering them "tenure". I know Sibal's bullshitting here, but my point is this: it is IIT FAs' misguided emphasis on autonomy that invites Sibal's seemingly clinching counterarguments.]
Here's my request to the IIT FAs. Dump this bogus talk about autonomy. Focus on the one truly evil thing -- OCAP -- and demand that it be scrapped. Make that a non-negotiable demand. Don't take your eyes off this ball.
Even if the other demands are not conceded, you will still be able to claim victory for ensuring a bright future for your institutions.