Parliament passes IIM amendment bill
The bill seeks to make the President of India ‘Visitor’ at all Indian Institutes of Management in the country
The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to make the President of India “Visitor” at all Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), amid opposition raising concerns over several issues pertaining with the country’s premier business schools, and the possibility that the legislation could limit the autonomy of these institutions.
The Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) (Amendment) Bill 2023 – which seeks to make amendments in the 2017 IIM Act – was passed in the Upper House by a voice vote. It was cleared by the Lok Sabha on August 4.
The bill empowers the “Visitor” to nominate the chairperson of the board of governors, oversee appointment as well as removal of directors, and audit the functioning of the 20 IIMs in the country. The bill also classifies the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai, as the 21st IIM of the country.
Replying to a debate on the bill in Rajya Sabha, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that the bill will fix governance accountability, and ensure “social justice”.
“Some members raised questions over why the constitutional requirements of the country including reservation in faculty recruitment are not followed in the IIMs or students from weaker sections are not admitted in these institutions. As long as we don’t fix the accountability, the institutes are not answerable to anyone. Therefore, the bill has been brought to bring that accountability while keeping the academic autonomy intact,” the minister said.
Pradhan said that the amendment will strengthen the constitutional position through Parliament to ask why the IIMs have not been adhering to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019. “Previously, they were not answerable. But now they will be,” he said.
During the debate, V Vijaysai Reddy, member YSR Congress, supported the bill, however, he also raised concerns over reduction in the budgetary support to IIMs over the years. “There is an obvious mismatch between the increase in the number of IIMs and budgetary support. Therefore, an adequate budget should be increased to the IIMs,” he said.
Responding to which, Pradhan said that the Centre has spent more than ₹6,000 crore in setting up the IIMs. “The government is financially helping new IIMs. There is an option of HEFA loans for all the greenfield IIMs. The IIMs are also free to fix their fees. They are also generating their internal revenue.There is no issue of funding,” he said.
The 2017 IIM Act provides the institutes a higher degree of autonomy over its functioning, with a very limited role of the government. The board of governors of each institute, comprise 19 members, including one representative each from the central and state governments.
The bill that was cleared in the Rajya Sabha, however, seeks to nominate the President as “Visitor” of each IIM, with complete power to “nominate the chairperson of the board of governors”, and also have its nominee in the search-cum-selection panel for the director’s appointment.
Currently, the chairperson of the board of governors is appointed by the board itself, from among eminent persons distinguished in the field of industry, education, science, technology, management and public administration among others.
Participating in the debate, another YSR Congress member Masthan Rao Beeda raised concerns over the compromise of autonomy of IIMs, and asked. “Why has the autonomy of the IIMs been taken away? Management is a course that needs institutional freedom. On the first reading, it looks like that the bill is taking back what the 2017 Act had given to IIMs,” he said.
He also raised concerns over the high fees of IIMs and lack of representation of students from poorer sections in these institutions.
Amar Patnaik, member of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), also supported the bill and said, “Autonomy and accountability go hand in hand.”
AIDMK member M Thambidurai, raised the need for preference to be given to local students, and said that IIMs should collaborate with other Indian institutions and share their knowledge and experience and help them upgrade.