An RTI filed by the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle has revealed that 16 of the 19 SC/ST Cells established in the IITs are non-functional and exist only on paper.
Out of the 19 cells, only three have allotted rooms while 12 function without rooms, prohibiting them from holding meetings and carrying out discussions. A further 11 SC/ST Cells don’t have websites, making them less accessible to students.
During the budget session in Parliament, the Ministry of Education informed the Lok Sabha that 19 out of 23 IITs have SC-ST Cells. However, only 12 of the IITs mention the SC/ST cell on their websites and only three IITs have allotted rooms for the cells.
Surprisingly, newer IITs such as Palakkad have established SC/ST Cells, while some older institutions like the one in Kharagpur do not have a cell. Only two IITs - Guwahati and Delhi - allocate funds to the SC/ST cells on their campuses, while five conduct events.
A social media post by APPSC highlights the fact that many of the SC/ST Cells are only namesakes and do not conduct any sensitization events or oversee the implementation of reservation. This lack of activity is due to the lack of funds.
Curiously, 10 out of 12 cells, including IIT Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, and Delhi, do not have any information on the reservation or its implementation.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, a member of APPSC IIT Bombay said, “The reason behind this aloofness is that in the SC/ST Cells in these organizations, the office bearers belong to the people from the general category." He further added, "Alongside the reservation of the students, we have also been demanding the recruitment of faculties from SC/ST categories through the reservation mandate, because if the general category controls these SC/ST Cells, it will be a conflict of interest as most of the complaints are against their own people. The paucity of SC/ST faculties in IITs is resulting in control of SC/ST cells by general category people, most of whom are Brahmins.”
While the University Grants Commission has issued guidelines for higher educational institutions to take appropriate measures against discrimination faced by the SC/ST students, the guidelines will remain meaningless in the absence of functioning and appropriately funded SC/ST cell in IITs.