There is an irony here that is hard to miss. The three oldest Indian Institutes of Management — IIM Calcutta, IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore — were established many years before India embraced the market economy model. With recommendations that came from the Planning Commission and working in a socialist framework, they have functioned autonomously to evolve best management practices and, with some help from America, today figure among India’s best-known global brands. Over the years they have benefited from the autonomy granted to them, which has enabled them to work independently in deciding what is best for them. In the true sense of the term, the IIMs have essentially been market-oriented institutions. The government that is now at the helm has an avowedly pro-market disposition too, and has in the recent past cut budgetary support for many welfare measures. The real objective of seeking to impose controls on the management institutes — of which there are 13 today — has therefore perplexed observers. To be fair, the NDA government is not to be blamed entirely. The Congress-led UPA, under Minister Kapil Sibal, set the process going. A committee that he appointed was accused of pursuing the objective of out-and-out privatisation of the IIMs. The Ministry of Human Resource Development under Smriti Irani is now seeking to regulate them by means of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2015, in the text of which the word ‘regulate’ recurs with regularity. The Bill is now in the public realm for comments and will of course pass through Parliament. There is reason to believe that the special status enjoyed by the institutes is being sought to be diluted by bringing in other business schools also within the ambit of the Bill. That is not to say the Bill is without any positive aspects. It promises to meet a long-pending demand to convert diplomas awarded by the IIMs into degrees.
But the real question is whether government control would help make these institutes centres of excellence. Public-funded institutes in India figure nowhere in the top 100 global ranking index. The Indian Institutes of Technology have functioned autonomously in deciding their own curriculum, yet evidently the government is seeking to interfere in their functioning. In the case of the IIMs Bill, it is not clear to what extent the government intends to meddle with the academic structure. What is evident is that major decisions can be taken only with prior government approval. Also, determining the fee structure, a contentious issue in the past, will be subject to governmental nod. The government ought to tread carefully here. It would be appropriate to take the IIMs along while giving final shape to the Bill, which has the potential to alter their structure.
Please follow and like us: