Raghunath Shevgaonkar

A day after the IIT Delhi Director Raghunath Shevgaonkar’s resignation, alumni association of IIT-D stood by him and warned HRD ministry against any interference with the IIT affairs. He had left two years of service and he abruptly put in his papers apparently over a controversy involving his signing an MoU with Mauritius.Shevgaonkar’s resignation is yet to be accepted, but the HRD ministry has constituted an inquiry committee to look into the MoU that the institution signed with Mauritius Research Council for setting up an IIT Research Academy in Mauritius. The academicians too feel that the director is being made a scapegoat for sharing his proximity with the Congress.The alumni association’s resolution reads, “We resolve that the autonomy of the IIT system being extremely important for the development of the nation, should not be interfered by the HRD Ministry in order to have smooth functioning of the IITs.”Sources in HRD ministry informed that the ministry, one and a half months back had formulated a one man committee to look into the legitimacy of the MoU signed between IIT-D and Mauritius. An inquiry into the same is also being conducted. The ministry denied having put any pressure on Sevagaokar and has said that his resignation has not been accepted.The HRD ministry by its order passed in August 2004, had allowed all central universities including the IITs and IIMs to engage in exchange programs with foreign universities without any formal approval of the ministry. The IIT-D had signed the MoU under the same pretext.IIT-D had started running an off shore campus in Mauritius and was also to award degrees to the students. However the IIT Act, does not allows IITs to award degrees to overseas institutions. “Had IIT amended the act before signing an MoU, there would have been no controversy,” said an officer of the ministry.If the MoU signed had been restricted to research, the ministry would have no objection, but awarding degrees is against the act. The MoU was signed in 2013, when Pallam Raju was the HRD minister in UPA 2 term.However academicians feel that Sevagaokar is not alone to be blamed for violating the IIT Act. Some feel he is being targeted for sharing proximity with the Congress. The IIT director wrote speeches for Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. IIT board and the then HRD minister was aware of the MoU. So why is the director being pressurised,” said an academician.IIT Delhi meanwhile issued a statement saying that the Director had resigned because of “personal reasons” and it was “not connected to any other matter being reported in the press”. The IIT statement issued by the acting registrar said the campus in Mauritius is not an “extension campus of IIT-D” but an independent research academy named ‘International Institute of Technology Research Academy’ (IITRA). “IIT-D’s role is only advisory in nature,” it said.It said the original proposal to start International Institute of Technology Delhi Research Academy was initiated on the recommendation of the IIT Council on January 21, 2011 but its nomenclature was later changed to IITRA on the advice of the HRD Ministry. “The final MoU was okayed by HRD Ministry and it was signed in the presence of the then HRD Minister on November 19, 2013 in Mauritius,” the IIT statement said.

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Resignation row: HRD ministry probing legality of MoU