The Nature India column -- Pay commission will 'degrade' IIT faculty [free registration required] -- by Aditya Mittal, an associate professor in IIT-D's School of Biological Sciences, is so bad in so many ways that I don't know where to begin.
His beginning is a good place to begin, I guess:
... Many feel that the IITs are not great because of their faculty, but because of the system that chooses students for India's scientific Oxbridge — the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).
But who is behind these JEEs? From setting the question paper to conducting the exam and compiling the results to admitting the best students through comprehensive counseling procedures, it is an out and out 'show' of the IIT faculty. In fact, it would be difficult to find a single faculty member in the IITs who hasn't ever been involved in a JEE.
This is a curious way to begin a pitch for a higher pay (or, special treatment). Mittal has successfully framed the IITs as JEE organizing machines which just happen to cost the government, oh, over a thousand crore rupees. Research and other such things seem secondary!
Here's the next "argument":
The government can never pay what an IIT faculty deserves. In fact, one can't expect the government to pay what an IIT faculty deserves. It is considered a privilege to teach and do research at the IITs. Not for the money but for the work ethos created and maintained by its faculty - present and past. People come to work at an IIT because of the dignity associated with the hallowed institution. And they work tirelessly at the IITs believing it is a place that nurtures the mantra of 'being the best at whatever you do, no matter what you do.' This is evident in the success of its alumni, as well as in the success of the faculty in competing with the most specialised research laboratories across the globe despite the time and resource crunch it is always faced with.
Notice his framing of *all* IIT faculty -- not "some" but an undifferentiated "the" -- as embodying excellence in not just organizing the JEE, but also in their "success ... in competing with the most specialized laboratories".
Further, how on earth can it be "considered a privilege to teach and do research at the IITs" when all you get is a time crunch and a resource crunch? Also, the privilege is so special that "... one can't expect the government to pay what an IIT faculty deserves." Got it? Me neither.
I wonder what the government will do after reading this piece: I hope it won't make the resource crunch bigger so IIT faculty can feel more privileged ...
Next comes this:
... the sixth pay commission's treatment to the IITs simply reflects a sorry state of affairs of the Indian system. It demonstrates the failure of a country to deal with excellence. The commission has brought pay-packets of entry level IIT faculty at par with (or below) bureaucratic positions. It has also clubbed them with groups of recruits in other systems who most often do not qualify to enter the IIT system as PhD students. This simply reflects the poor mindset of our society that is unable to give excellence its due.
The arrogance is appalling. It's one thing to claim that *all* your colleagues are excellent, but it takes a certain insensitivity to diss a whole lot of folks in universities ("recruits ... who most often do not qualify to enter the IIT system as PhD students").
His problem seems to be that the IIT assistant professors are in the same Pay Band with such "recruits". The fact that they earn considerably more doesn't matter; Mittal is upset that the great assistant professors at IIT-D share the same Pay Band as those "recruits" in "other systems."
What's this -- some new kind of untouchability?
But you know what the clincher is? This:
In giving its verdict, the Union Human Resource Development ministry has ignored the recommendations of the Goverdhan Mehta committee report which had recommended a hike in pay scale of apex technical educational institutions.
What's wrong with this? The difference between the Mehta committee and ministry recommendations are actually quite small: probably 2 or 3 percent. Except, of course, for the serious anomaly that prevents assistant professors from going to Pay Band 4 after three years.
The small difference doesn't mean IIT faculty should accept it without a fight. They are doing the right thing by pointing out the anomalies and seeking a remedy. If their pleas fall on deaf ears, they would also be right to go on strike.
But to take this small difference as a basis for an unreasoned, unreasonable (and arrogant) rant?