June 23, 2021
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IIM Fee Controversy

Feel Bad For The Good Doctor

The Supreme Court is asking all sorts of questions. It's a whole Pandora's box getting opened out there. How did it all start? Anyone remember why? It was supposed to be a help in an election year. What happened? Where are the missing WMDs?

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Feel Bad For The Good Doctor

It’s all very confusing.

The good doctor was going to make the IIMs more accessible by reducing fees, but it turns out fees were never a show-stopper. Low-income families have been sending children for decades, and banks line up to finance them.

The good doctor doesn’t want students to take loans for education. But Government ads proudly proclaim that student loans have brought education to millions, and given India a shining. Why do they contradict him before he even speaks?

Admission has been tough, especially the Common Admission Test (CAT) and interviews. This year the papers had leaked for the first time. The good doctor was all set to scrap the CAT, but many other papers have also leaked, so his hands are full. The pre-medical exam is just the latest. Very distracting, this.

The good doctor knows he can run the country and the IIMs and all educational institutions better than any Narayana Murthy. Yet people tell him he has never run any institution to deliver tangible results. Insolence!

The good doctor reserves the right to appoint the IIM boards, or change them whenever he wants to. It is his ministerial prerogative, isn’t it? Yet they object when he changes the board before an awkward meeting, and say he is violating due procedure.

Procedures not followed? Horrors! This gets his bureaucrats in a tizzy. It may be a sustainable objection, they whisper, because the appointments were made without the mandatory consultation. Another irritant, another roadblock!

Out comes the trusty weapon, the allegation of financial irregularities. The good doctor dutifully trots it out on a TV show, and promises to get skeletons tumbling out of cupboards. Skeletons do tumble, but they turn out to be of his very own hatchet man. The Allahabad High Court orders a CBI inquiry into an earlier posting. From Allahabad, his own home ground! The bitter irony of it all!

Coming to financials, someone puts pencil to paper and comes up with figures. 1200 students at Rs 1.5 lakhs each comes to Rs 18 crores, they say. The proposed fee reduction will need a subsidy of Rs 14.4 crores per annum, and the good doctor is committed to it. Except now the finance ministry says it has no request for funds, and no money anyway, for this purpose.

Meanwhile some of the IIMs, exact number to be confirmed, do toe the line, and agree to cut fees. The good doctor says its five of them, but the bold print says three, and the fine print says all are subject to the Supreme Court’s final decision on the matter.

And the Supreme Court wants a written commitment about autonomy and subsidies, raising the question about thousands of other institutions, teaching management and all other subjects. It’s a whole Pandora’s box getting opened out there.

How did it all start? Anyone remember why? It was supposed to be a help in an election year. What happened?

Where are the missing WMDs?

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