Monday, December 29, 2014

Shevgaonkar's Resignation: An Update

Three things.

First, via The Telegraph, we get some details on how Prof. Shevgaonkar was being pressured into settling the Subramanian Swamy case:

In 2008, he wrote to Prime Minister Singh but then human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, to whom the matter was forwarded, decided against granting extraordinary leave. The matter is before the high court.

The new NDA government wanted to settle the matter. Irani's ministry has sought the opinions of the department of personnel and training and the finance ministry. No advice has yet come.

Irani called Shevgaonkar and Swamy to a meeting about two months ago and again summoned the director two weeks ago, both times suggesting an out-of-court settlement, ministry and IIT Delhi sources said.

Swamy, on the other hand, has been insinuating that Shevgaonkar resigned because his actions regarding IIT-D's initiative in Mauritius are being inquired into. The government has also unleashed its "top HRD ministry sources" to run with this story [see also this story in The Financial Express].

The possible reason for the resignation of IIT-Delhi director RK Shevgaonkar could be his alleged involvement in illegally setting up an off-shore campus of the institute in Mauritius, top HRD ministry sources claimed on Sunday.

A top HRD official insisted Shevgaonkar was cornered on the Mauritius issue. "We were asking him questions to which no satisfactory reply was forthcoming," he said. According to him, Shevgaonkar had taken the proposal of IIT-D campus in Mauritius to IIT Council which told him that the Institutes of Technology Act that governs IITs do not enable creation of offshore campuses. However, he said, Shevgaonkar went ahead and had Memorandum of Understanding with Tertiary Education Commission of Mauritius. The proposed institute was to be called International Institute of Technology Research Academy.

In an attempt to squelch this twisted story, IIT-D has responded by clarifying that the Mauritius initiative had the full backing of the HRD ministry all along. As Anubhuti Vishnoi reports in India Today:

Hitting back at the Smriti Irani-led Union Human Resource Development ministry which was blaming IIT Director Prof R Shivgaonker's sudden resignation on possible irregularities related to its Mauritius MoU, the IIT on Monday said that all due clearances and approvals were taken and approved by the HRD ministry.

The IIT hit back clarifying that International Institute of Technology Research Academy in Mauritius is not an extension campus of IIT Delhi, that the IIT's role was simple advisory in nature and no financial commitment was incurred on its part. It has also brought home the point that the final MoU was approved by the HRD ministrt and signed in the presence of then HRD minister Pallam Raju.

IIT Delhi on Monday shot off a communication to the Smriti Irani-led HRD ministry with a detailed sequence of events supported with ten annexures on the Mauritius MoU to clarify its stand on the issue. The IIT also released a press statement saying the same.

We now have a PR battle between an HRD minister and an IIT director. Right now, my bets are on Shevgaonkar. That Subramanian Swamy is on the other side is one of my strongest reasons. [Here's yet another example of his unhinged imagination: Who financed the PK film? According to my sources it is traceable to Dubai and ISI. DRI must investigate.]

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Update: Among the political parties, AAP does the right thing [Update (3 Jan 2015): AAP's Press Release] by bringing the debate back to the basic question of autonomy.

AAP said that BJP's "unjustified political interference" is trampling the autonomy of the top institutions for professional and technical education.

"The Aam Aadmi Party challenges the human resources development minister to answer the following two questions. Is it not a fact that she had recently summoned the IIT Delhi director ?

"Is it not a fact that impolite language was used against such a senior professor and is it also not fact that he was humiliated in that meeting?" the party said in a statement.

The party alleged that the BJP was hell bent on imposing its "dangerous agenda" on the nation.

This debate in NDTV is revealing for all the non-arguments from the highly agitated BJP spokesman. Arguing for the other side, Yogendra Yadav is absolutely flawless!