Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are the IIT faculty right to go on strike?

IITs (in this post, they also "stand in" for IISc, IIMs, IISERs and other such government-funded institutions other than Central Universities) are public institutions that play by public sector rules. Within this paradigm, what kinds of arguments can the IIT faculty associations use to bolster their demand for a better deal than what the government has offered them?

While there is no universal moral law, I think they could appeal to a broad 'principle' that most people would agree with: similarly situated people in the old scheme have a right to expect that their situation in the new scheme will not be drastically different. Minor differences may be okay, but drastic differences are not; at least, not without a well-articulated justification.

[Minor and major differences will also depend on context: A difference of several hundreds of rupees may be okay in salary, but even a hundred rupee difference is not okay in Grade Pay, which is the status marker in the new regime; see No. 3, below].

If you accept this principle, it would appear that IIT faculty do indeed have a strong case on some of their demands. I can think of at least three:

  1. Who's affected? Assistant professors in IITs.

    Who are they being compared to? Readers in Central Universities.

    Where is the anomaly? In the new regime, while readers (in universities) and assistant professors (in IITs) are placed in Pay Band 3 at the beginning, their situations are radically different after three years of service. Readers move to a higher pay band -- Pay Band 4, automatically, without any evaluation -- where the salaries are much higher: 46,400 (Salary of 37,400 and AGP of 9,000). This benefit has been denied to assistant professors at IITs.

    Verdict: This is wrong. IIT faculty would be absolutely right in going to strike if this benefit is denied to them.

  2. Who's affected? Everyone in the IITs -- both academic and scientific staff.

    Who are they being compared to? Here, the comparison is with scientists (at all levels) in R&D organizations in the public sector.

    Where is the anomaly? The R&D labs belonging to DAE, DRDO and ISRO offer an extra allowance to their scientific staff. This benefit has been denied to the IIT faculty.

    [The idea behind this allowance, I believe, is to make careers in R&D attractive. However, I am not sure about the details of its implementation: I have seen different versions of this benefit: 20% of basic pay, a lump sum of about 6,000, etc. Also, I am not sure if this is a performance-based incentive or if it is given to all the scientific staff. ]

    IIT folks have made a specific demand for a scholastic pay of Rs. 15,000 per month [backed by dubious arguments). Across all levels.

    Verdict: I expect this demand to be accepted, but the scholastic pay may be less than Rs.15,000 per month; also, it could be a fraction of one's salary, instead of a fixed sum.

  3. Who's affected? Associate professors.

    Who are they being compared to? Professors in universities, whose salary scale in the old scheme was the same as that of associate professors in IITs.

    Where's the anomaly? The Academic Grade Pay is different. It's 10,000 for university professors, while it is 9,500 for the IIT associate professors

    Verdict: This anomaly must be removed. In the new regime, Academic Grade Pay is the "status indicator." People with the same status in the old scheme have every right to expect to have the same status in the new scheme.

    [A similar situation exists for full professors at the IITs; there, the comparison group will have to be some other categories of people -- for example, senior scientists in DRDO. The specific demand is for an AGP of 11,000 instead of 10,500 ]


  1. Anonymous said...

    Abi, You have certainly established that there is a strong case for their demands.

    But you have not established if going on strike is the right thing; which is what the title of your post claims to address.

    For example, what else could they have done which would have been an valid alternative to going on strike?

  2. Anonymous said...

    Assuming that educating the growing young population needs the establishment of more and more "public sector" institutes by govt. shouldn't some old institutes especially the IITs graduate to earning equal or more than others of equivalent grade by themselves i.e phase out subsidized education ? Most IIT UG students after graduating do quite well economically in terms of either private sector employment or foreign opportunities, so isn't it high-time that tuition fees start paying for the faculty salary in IITs as in private colleges/univs in US ?

  3. Anonymous said...

    In one of the posted links the IIT faculty are demanding abolishing both the contract-basis lecturer post and the need for 3yrs experience for asst. professor position. Don't know what is the real reason but in any case one can have two tier entry level (a) assistant prof (teaching) equivalent to lecturers for which one can hire either fresh PHDs or ME/MTech who are not expected to do research in a fixed period of time. The other category could be assistant prof. (research) which will need 3 yrs experience after PhD (unless you prove you have exceptional abilities) and where you are expected to do more of research compared to assistant prof (teaching).

  4. Anonymous said...

    The point 3 about Associate Professors is not quite correct. In the old scheme (current fifth pay commission or even the fourth pay commission scales that were used before that) IIT Associate Professors are not quite equal to University Profs. IIT Asso Profs start off like University Profs, but the scale ends halfway; the upper half is similar to IIT Profs' scale. Thus, it could be argued that IIT Asso Profs are a bit lower in cadre than Univ Profs and IIT Profs are similarly higher. The proposed grade pays follow this sequence - IIT Asso Profs 9500, University Profs 10000 and IIT Profs 10500. But the broader issue is, should pre-revised scale similarity be the driving factor or should it be some performance based metric.

  5. Giri@iisc said...

    "so isn't it high-time that tuition fees start paying for the faculty salary in IITs as in private colleges/univs in US ?"

    Well, the budget of IIT/IISc is around Rs. 2 billion (200 crores) per year. The salary for faculty and staff is around 100 crores. Each IIT has around 3000 undergraduate students on roll. If 3000 students have to pay Rs. 200 crores, look at the tuition fees they have to pay each year. Many will rather go abroad than study in IIT.

    Regarding the other comment,
    "IIT faculty are demanding abolishing both the contract-basis lecturer post and the need for 3yrs experience for asst. professor position."

    If 3 years post-doc experience is required for an assistant professor position, not many in engineering will join IIT/IISc. Currently, many who have joined have only 1-2 years of postdoc experience. No one will join as a lecturer to just do teaching without research. They can as well join a private engineering college and earn more.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Abi, as someone who laments the state of universities and the lack of "real universities" don't you think you are being slightly hypocritical with your point 3? Why should associate professors at "IIT"s have equal grade pay with professors in universities? When you further consider that there are usually fewer professor positions in most departments in universities (both in absolute terms and relative to the total faculty strength) than in "IIT"s, this seems even more unfair.

    Or is the point that we accept, this being India, that there is a caste system in everything and universities just cannot be allowed to be considered our equals (I work in an "INI" myself, incidentally)?

  7. Anonymous said...


    Can't the perks/incentives and the raise come from student tuition fees and a fraction from the grants/consultancy fees that they can bring in ? The major component of salary can be still paid by govt. Shouldn't there be an effort toward diversification of budget sources ?

    So what is reason for there being a lecturer post in the first place if the emphasis is on research in the IITs. Is this a historical practice ?

  8. Abi said...

    @Anon1: If you look at the grievances, many of them affect the assistant professors (at IIT-M, for example, over 40 percent of their faculty are at this level). But as I point out, negative effects are being felt by the senior faculty as well.

    After watching government employees enjoy the benefits of a higher pay for many months, after being told to wait (on an implicit promise that the deal will be *really* good), what the INIs got was a lemon. It certainly gave them the feeling that they were being taken for a solid ride. Under the circumstances, I think they were restrained in their response by going on strike just for a day.

    @Anon2, @Anon6: Education subsidy is a bigger problem that affects all our universities. Thinking about them just in the context of IITs is not right; moreover, the government is not going to touch this issue for now.

    @Anon3: The (PhD+3-year) rule is indeed a shocker. As Giridhar points out, it's a big downer for engineering departments.

    @Anon4: The reason for the kind of scheme we had earlier is because the professor scale in universities was the terminal one, whereas the associate professors in IITs still had a higher scale (starting at 18.4k) to go to, by being promoted to a professorship. Thus, the fact remains that IIT associate professors and university professors were treated as equivalent.

    @Giri: Thanks for those clarifications!

    @Anon5: This Pay Commission goes a long way in levelling the field -- the pay differentials between university professors and IIT professors is far smaller now than it was since (at least) the Fourth Pay Commission. I am glad about this outcome.

    However, the AGP issue is different. Given that the IIT associate professors and university professors were treated as equivalent (whatever were the reasons behind this decision), any change introduced in the new regime requires an explicit justification. In the absence of such a justification, I would reiterate my stand that this anomaly should be removed.

  9. Anonymous said...

    Higher pay for excellence is not a bad idea but that cannot entirely come from govt. pockets especially in a relatively poor country where there is a resource crunch. I still feel that IITs are the first place to begin the experimentation of de-subsidizing faculty salaries.

  10. Giri@iisc said...

    "@Anon4: The reason for the kind of scheme we had earlier is because the professor scale in universities was the terminal one, whereas the associate professors in IITs still had a higher scale (starting at 18.4k) to go to, by being promoted to a professorship. Thus, the fact remains that IIT associate professors and university professors were treated as equivalent. "

    According to the government, you were not, which is what Anon is trying to say, I believe.

    Associate professors in IITs were in the scale of S-27 (see 6 CPC), 16400-20900. This has been mapped to AGP of 8900, but has been increased to 9500.

    Professors in UGC were in the scale of S-28, which ends at 22400, which has been mapped to AGP of 10000

    Professors in IITs were in the scale of S-29, which starts at 18400 and also ends at 22400, which has been mapped to 10000 but has been given 10500.

    According to the government, the gradation was thus as

    S-27 - AcP of IIT
    S-28 - Professor in UGC
    S-29 - Professor in IIT

    and thus they have tried to maintain the equivalent: 9.5, 10, 10.5 K.

    Because I see the statement that the benefits of AGP of 9500 and 10000 are very different, can you give me a few examples and quote from the relevant document?



  11. Giri@iisc said...

    Let me clarify the above comment. the CPC notification specifically comments that people drawing AGP above 10,000 will be entitled to Hotel charges of Rs. 5000, AC taxi, business class in air. People drawing AGP between 7600 to 8900 are entitled to Rs. 3000 hotel, non-ac taxi and economy class in air travel. There is no mention of 9500 as grade pay in the CPC notification because that specifically created for IIT. So, I am not sure where there is a difference.

  12. Abi said...

    @Giridhar: Thanks for that clarification about how travel allowance and per diem rates change quite substantially on reaching an AGP of 10,000.

    I was told (and I am trying to get documentary evidence; will post it here when I get it), the transport allowance also is tied to AGP in a such a way that an AGP of 10,000 becomes important. But, as I said, I'm not on firm ground here.

  13. Anonymous said...

    Re whether going on strike is the right thing: I am not sure whether IIX staff is governed by the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules; but if so,a strike seems to be against the letter and spirit of some sections such as
    3A(b) No Government servant shall ... (b) in his official dealings with the public or otherwise adopt dilatory tactics or willfully cause delays in disposal of the work assigned to him.; and
    7 No Government servant shall... (ii) resort to or in any way abet any form of strike or coercion or physical duress in connection with any matter pertaining to his service or the service of any other Government servant.
    However, other sections do state that
    "No Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government, own wholly or in part, or conduct or participate in the editing or management of, any newspaper or other periodical publication or electronic media."; and
    "No Government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion -(i) which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government:"
    unless one is a trade union officer. So just blogging also may be grounds for action.
    Unless of course all the professor-bloggers have taken permission to write, which seems unlikely. At least there are disclaimers as required by the rules. Or (hopefully) when the corresponding acts were passed, IIX staff were deemed to be wise enough and so are not governed by these rules.

  14. Anonymous said...

    In NIT Kurukshetra faculty will be getting this month salary based on new pay scales. Lecturer(selection grade) with MTech qualification will become Associate Professors. Some of them got 3 years increments also. If they can submit their PhDs in one year they will eligible for Professorship (Pay band 10000).
    In IIT to become Associate Professor one has to guide PhDs (also journal publications and research projects). And to become Professor he has to wait for 4 years.
    Why the strike? HRD minister is reluctant to meet Faculty forum. He says 'Directors' are happy. Directors are political appointees and they won't say a word against minister. So to get attention teachers protested (that too without bunking classes)