Wednesday, June 29, 2011

[ZESTCaste] SC/ST students keen to join IIT-D? Join social skills class first

SC/ST students keen to join IIT-D? Join social skills class first
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 29, 2011 Email to Author

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has asked scheduled
caste and scheduled tribe students to come for special classes to help
them "adapt to the environment at IIT Delhi," in a notice that has
sparked accusations of demeaning these communities. IIT Delhi director
Surendra Prasad told HT late on Wednesday that the notice, put out on
the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) website, "was
inappropriately worded" and that the special classes were not meant
only for SC/ST students.

"There is something amiss in the notice. The classes are meant for all
students from rural backgrounds - and not just for SC/ST students --
and were conducted last year too," Prasad said.

But SC/ST students demanded that the notice be withdrawn and that the
IIT issue an apology. "It is demeaning. I am not sure anymore that I
want to go to IIT Delhi," Rajesh Kumar, an SC candidate said.

Titled a "social enrichment programme", the special classes are to be
conducted by the Centre for Research and Education for Social
Transformation (CREST). The classes will help SC/ST students "develop
social skills, orientation and ability to adapt to the environment at
IIT Delhi," the notice states.

"SC/ST students may need academic assistance, but suggesting that by
virtue of their caste or tribe they are less socially equipped to
handle the IIT environment is demeaning," Kumar said. All central
higher educational institutions are required to reserve 15 % seats for
SC students and another 7.5% seats for ST students.

DD Nampoothiri, executive director at CREST said he was "not in a
position to comment at the moment," when he was reached late evening.

But Prasad insisted that the notice posted on the IIT-JEE website was
not aimed at either humiliating anyone or at hurting their sentiments,
hinting that any objectionable contents would be removed. Prasad also
hinted that he was unaware of the wording of the notice till HT spoke
with him.

The controversially worded notice ironically comes at a time when
SC/ST aspirants to the IITs appear to be improving their performance
relative to earlier years.

The IITs set cut-offs for SC/ST students based not on the performance
of students from these categories, but at 10 % lower than cut-offs for
general category students. This procedure has for years led to SC/ST
quota seats going vacant, as students who ranked high enough among
their category to get the seat did not clear the cut-offs - based on
the performance of general category students.

The Institutes, the country's premier engineering schools, have for
years now held special preparatory classes for all SC/ST students who
ranked high enough among their categories to fill quota seats but did
not clear the cut-offs set for them. Those students who perform well
in the year-long preparatory classes are allowed to join the
full-fledged programme the subsequent year.

But the IITs have not needed to hold any preparatory classes for SC
students for the past two years - because enough SC students have
cleared the cut-off set for them to fill all quota seats. The number
of ST students needing preparatory classes has also dipped in recent

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