Skip to main content

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.
Dr Sadrela did his BTech from the Institute of Aeronautical Engineering affiliated to JNT University, Hyderabad, and his MTech and PhD from IIT-Kanpur. The real reason seems to be revenge for his accusation of discrimination and harassment, on January 12, 2018, against four of his colleagues.
The accusation was found to be true by the three-member fact-finding committee set up by the IIT-K director in its report of March 2018. The Board of Governors (BoG) of IIT-K set up another enquiry by a retired Allahabad High Court judge. His Report of August 2018 also found that the teachers were guilty of violating the conduct rules of IIT-K and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Thereafter, the BoG decided that the teachers violated the conduct rules, but not the POA Act, diluting the judge’s findings. Dr Sadrela filed an FIR against the four teachers on November 18, 2018.
An anonymous complaint against Sadrela emerged on October 15, 2018 alleging that parts of his PhD thesis were plagiarized. The complaint was referred by the Director to a nine-member Academic Ethics Cell.
The Ethics Cell came to the conclusion that there is no allegation of plagiarism with regard to the scholar’s research work comprising his creative and technical part of the dissertation, including detailed experiments, tables, figures and the conclusions drawn from them. The only instances of copying were restricted to certain introductory passages in several chapters and mathematical basics and preliminaries. These seem to account for 12 to 13 pages of Introduction out of the 300 pages of his PhD, according to Dr Sadrela.
The Ethics Cell ruled against the revocation of his thesis and recommended that Dr Sadrela should rewrite the passages in question in his own words and submit an updated thesis in a month, and tender an apology letter to the Director for his “misdemeanor”. This was fulfilled by him promptly.
Yet, the Senate at its meeting on March 14, 2019 voted to have his PhD revoked. If the BoG accepts the Senate’s report at its forthcoming meeting, Dr Sadrela will be stripped of his PhD and may also lose his job.
The following conclusions emerge from the above facts:
  • The emergence of a rare teacher of the SCs has disturbed the minds of certain faculty members, suffering from centuries-old caste-bias and caste-based attitudes.
  • For his temerity in intruding into the rarefied space of IIT faculty, Tthe life of a scholar and teacher from an “Untouchable” community is made difficult by harassment coming within the definition of “atrocity” under the SC and ST (POA) Act.
  • Continuing efforts are being made to get rid of him, or perhaps allow him to remain, provided he submissively accepts his humiliation, by imposing punishment out of proportion for the marginal impropriety, even though there is no plagiarism in relation to substantive part of his PhD thesis.
R Subrahmanyam, secretary, Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development should consider taking the following urgent steps:
  1. Take every step possible to protect Dr Sadrela from further harassment and to get proceedings against him dropped in the light of the Ethics Cell’s report and his fulfillment of the steps recommended by the Ethics Cell.
  2. Take other steps to see that SC, ST and SEdBC members of faculties of IITs and other institutions are fully protected and enabled to carry on work and life with equal dignity. This will require continuous special care, watch and initiative by the Ministry at the highest levels.
  3. Take action against all those who have participated in the enterprise of chasing out the rare well-qualified SC teacher.
This case raises certain other important issues.
It is possible to harass and humiliate SC and ST teachers in faculties of IITs and other such higher educational institutions because they are few in number. Larger numbers will make them less vulnerable.
It is necessary to take a list of all persons belonging to SCs, STs and SEdBCs who have acquired qualifications from IITs and have a drive to appoint them to existing vacancies. There are such persons who have kept out by the recruitment process.
IITs, IIMs etc. are striving hard for autonomy. If they are granted autonomy the intolerant regime of some influential narrow-minded members of faculties will have full play against faculty members belonging to SCs, STs and SEdBCs and also students of SCs, STs and SEdBCs.
This is the same situation at micro- level that faced Dr Ambedkar at the national level in the Round Table Conference of 1932, from which certain protective Constitutional provisions for the SCs emerged in 1935, which were subsequently extended to STs and SEdBCs as appropriate to them after Independence and Constitution of India.
If autonomy is contemplated for IITs, IIMs and any other higher educational institution, it should contain effective provisions of protection and equal treatment and dignity for faculty members and students of SCs, STs and SEdBCs.
There has been no systematic effort in our educational system to educate students, teachers, recruits to IAS and other all-India and Central services and State services, and officers and personnel of various departments and public and private institutions, at the recruitment stage as well as later, about the vicious and pernicious nature of the centuries-old caste-system-with-“Untouchability”, continuing to this day, the great harm and injury it has done to the SCs, STs and SEdBCs in every aspect of life, and the constraint it has imposed on the progress of the country and its economy, and the importance of sincere cooperation with all measures of Social Justice for the three deprived classes.
It is high time that appropriate modules for this are introduced at different stages of education, training and career, covering all public activities.
These measures are important not only from the point of view of justice and fair play for the SCs, STs and SEdBCs, but also in the larger interest of social and national integration on the basis of Equality and equal dignity.
---
*Former secretary, Ministry of Welfare, Government of India. 
This article is based on the author's letter to the secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India

Comments

Anonymous said…
Why compromise on quality. Was he recruited without reservation through normal recruitments? Is his research comparable to other profs at IIT. These things need to be confirmed first
Anonymous said…
It would be nice if the author had gone through the complete story without
giving it a caste angle. A Ph.D. student's thesis had a very large
portion of his thesis copied from other thesis and publications. It was not
limited to the introduction only. Even if it would have been in
introductory chapter only, it would have been a strong case of plagiarism.
Only a couple of years back another M.Tech. thesis/degree of a general category

student was revoked by the senate/board. There was no signature campaign or
blogs etc. in support of the student because plagiarism is plagiarism
irrespective of the caste or religion of the student. Senate standing body
entrusted with recommending the awards of the degree (SPGC) found that the
thesis has to be withdrawn and recommended to the Academic Senate which
agreed with the recommendations of the SPGC and Senate recommended to the board for revocation of the degree since a Ph.D. degree without a thesis
has no meaning. It is unfortunate that the author has not tried to find all facts and precedence.
Anonymous said…
It is untrue that SC, ST or OBCs are not there in IITs. They are, but most of them have never declared themselves to be belonging to these categories as they have come through general category. I myself belong to OBC but no one in my family have ever used the reservation and nobody in IIT faculty know about it.

In this case, when looking at plagiarism, caste should not be looked at. In fact in this case Dr.Saderla's thesis supervisor should be held responsible for allowing the plagiarism and not mentoring the Dr.Saderla with proper ethics. And the supervisor is a general category high cast person. He should be punished for not doing his work with integrity and honesty.

I how you can understand why I am choosing to be anonymous.
Anonymous said…
The problem is much bigger. Just look at all the directors of IITs. Why mhrd is not selecting sc/st/obc persons for these positions . Is it not bared on presumption that that only higher caste persons can be in leadership role. If we can have reservation in parliament then we can have it in directorship position also.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.