Right to Information data released recently shows that IIT Bombay has witnessed a serious violation of reservation norms in PhD admissions for the academic years from 2015 to 2019. Among the applications received in the five years, only 1.8 per cent of candidates were from Scheduled Tribes, 10.7 per cent from Scheduled Castes and 21.8 per cent were from Other Backward Castes. 11 out of 26 departments at IIT Bombay admitted zero candidates as PhD scholars from ST category between 2015-2019. Further, 3773 students from SC, ST, and OBC categories were denied seats.
50 per cent of seats are reserved for SC, ST, OBC students in IIT Bombay. However, between 2015 and 2019, less than 30 per cent of candidates were selected for PhD programs from these categories. Students allege that IIT has systematically excluded minority student candidates from the admission list. The data unveiled following a complaint under the RTI act in 2019 by a group of students. Students added that SC/ST cell has been ineffective for months on the campus.
Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) in an official statement clarified, "The institute has not given any response about what are the guidelines devised by the institution in the case of cut-off marks for admission. The cut-off marks function in addition to the basic eligibility criteria, which is almost a deterrent for ST, SC, and OBC students from joining the institute at all. A systemic practice of exclusion is happening across all IITs."
Speaking with Madhyamam, a PhD scholar from IIT Bombay said, "This is not only the issue of 2015-2019 years. For many years the same exclusion of minorities from academic programs is happening. Caste bias is systematic and subtle. The problem of selection criteria lies at multiple levels of screening; it is not like SC, ST, OBC students are not clearing the exam, it is the arbitrary nature of the interview process. There are screening levels for admission; one level of screening is at the application level, the second level is the written examination, and the third level is the interview."
"Interviews are arbitrary. There is a possibility of irregularities in interviews. Interviews are biased, problematic and irregular. Higher authorities have never given answers for what criteria they have given cut-off mark regulations. We need clarification from officials regarding on what basis they are calculating written exam and interview procedure. It is clear that SC, ST, OBC students are being ignored in academic spaces and this is ignorance towards marginalized," they added.
Following the allegation, Dean of academic programs in IIT Bombay, Amitava De claimed that the administration has followed all the reservation criteria. "The number of applications from SC, ST and OBC categories were lower than from the general category. Of the 54,021 general category candidates who applied, 3.8 per cent were admitted while 2.4 per cent of SC applicants were admitted. For ST and OBC candidates, the conversion rate is 3.1 per cent," De added.
The situation extends to all IITs as across the 2874 seats in IITs, 71.6 per cent seats were given to PhD scholars from general category. Only 19.2 per cent of seats are occupied by OBC students, 7.5 per cent by SC and 1.6 per cent by students from ST.
"The MHRD and the UGC mandates that if the institute fails to implement the stipulated reservation for a year, they require to re-advertise the seats, call for admissions again, and carry forward those seats into the subsequent year. IIT Bombay should explain why they haven't been following any of these mechanisms, despite seats being left vacant," APPSC demanded.